Fluent reading should sound similar to a child’s natural speech – accurate, smooth, unbroken, and effortless. This requires both skill knowledge and practice. A child needs knowledge of phonics, sight words, sight word phrases, and vocabulary skills with multiple opportunities to practice these skills in connected text. To provide this practice, your child needs to read and reread books on his/her independent level – the level at which your child can read with 95% accuracy in a specified amount of time. This level should be neither too easy nor too difficult. It should be just right, providing your child with the appropriate balance of success and challenge to prepare him/her for the skills needed to read increasingly complex materials.
When children are provided with several opportunities to practice reading on their independent level, they learn to apply known skills to new skills being taught. Let’s take a closer look at how this progression works. In the early stages of reading, connected text consists of a few simple sentences with CVC (consonant -vowel -consonant) words such as: fin, hop, cut, tub, and mad. With practice, children become competent in reading CVC words. Children are then ready to receive instruction in the silent e rule to read such words as: fine, hope, cute, and tube. Instruction then extends to common long vowel patterns such as ea to read the words: sea, seat, tea, and team. This progression continues throughout the grades providing the appropriate instruction and practice for children to read higher leveled text.It is important to remember that skills are interdependent, which means that in addition to phonics, children are also receiving instruction simultaneously in sight words, phrases, and vocabulary skills. As children move through the grades, they progress from reading simple CVC words to reading multi-syllabic words, in their number of known sight words, and in their ability to use context clues to read unknown words. Through this progression, it is essential for children to have adequate practice reading and re-reading on their independent level to reinforce and solidify skills taught, and to build reading fluency. When books are too challenging, children will put their focus on decoding unknown words causing hesitation and choppy reading. This does not build fluency.
Book choice is key. Once you have selected a book, have your child read aloud to you for a portion of the text. If your child’s reading is too slow or sounds choppy the reading level is too difficult. The book should be the appropriate level to reinforce known skills and build fluency. Most important, your child should not feel frustrated – at that point lower the reading level.