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What is a fluent reader?

As soon as my kindergartner mastered phonics, we began her first grade year learning what it meant to be a fluent reader. I knew that direct fluency was necessary for all early readers, but it really became solidified in my mind when I heard my little reader read out loud. The more she read, the faster she read and the less coherent it became for her listeners. She knew the word and it seemed her little mouth couldn't keep up with her brain. It was time to slow the bus down and focus on fluency skills. Although she was able to decode words accurately and quickly, she was in too big of a hurry to get through the text. (Haha, she tells me that she gets too excited!) I get that! Books excite me too, but there is a lot to pay attention to when reading, such as the author's purpose, punctuation, emotions, emphasized words, and appropriate rate. When you mumble your words you are not allowing your listener to enjoy the text and when you read with appropriate rate, intonation, and accuracy not only is it way more fun for the reader, but the listener as well - because reading and writing are about communicating ideas, thoughts, intentions, emotions, and experiences. Does your voice show what the author is communicating? If not, you are lacking fluency skills.

What is a fluent reader?

A fluent reader reads with meaningful expression, with little to no errors (going back to fix them when they occur), and at an appropriate rate.

Meaningful Expression

I use the word intonation a lot for this piece, but I introduce this piece to students reading in a monotone, robotic voice and then the same piece paying attention to punctuation, emotions, emphasized words, etc. My voice rising when asking questions, expressing anger or happiness or excitement as the author intends, pause at commas, recognizing when a thought ends. See why I'm always saying that reading is an active process?


This one is a balancing act because you don't want readers afraid of making mistakes, but mistakes take away from the meaning. I teach my readers not to worry when a mistake happen (because they do for everyone) but to go back and fix the error when it does occur. That's part of reading accurately.

Appropriate Rate

I will never describe the rate of a fluent reader excluding the word appropriate. Here's why: the rate is dependent on the reader's experience with the passage and on the author's intent. One student may struggle to understand a passage and must read it slowly and methodically the first time through. That's appropriate. The author may have meant a portion of the passage to be read quickly and panicked - that's appropriate. The author may have intended the passage to be read thoughtfully and solemnly - that's appropriate. What I would say is inappropriate is reading so slowly and laboriously that you put your listener to sleep or so quickly that you're difficult to understand, skipping over punctuation that forces you to stop and pause, not fixing errors, mumbling and unclear. It's okay to slow down and it's okay to speed up and it's okay to make mistakes - those are things all readers do. But what good readers have are tools to help them know and understand what is appropriate. THAT is a fluent reader.


During the month of November I'm offering a FREE punctuation lesson to help develop fluency in young readers in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Be sure to check it out. I'd love to hear your feedback!

If your reader is struggling to read out loud with expression, or reads slowly and laboriously, or accuracy is lacking - please contact me! I can help.

If you're struggling to know how to implement fluency instruction into your day, contact me. As an educational consultant, this is what I do! I can help. In the mean time, check out some of the products that I use either in my homeschool classroom or in my tutoring services:


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