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Fluent reading is reading in which words are recognized automatically.  With automatic word recognition, reading becomes faster, smoother, and more expressive, and students can begin to read silently, which is roughly twice as fast as oral reading.  But beginning readers usually do not read fluently; reading is often a word-by-word struggle.

How do we help children struggling with slow, painstaking sounding out and blending?  Support and encourage them.  Effortful decoding is a necessary step to sight recognition.  You can say, "I know reading is tough right now, but this is how you learn new words."  Ask students to reread each sentence that requires ususual decoding effort.

In general, the fluency formula is this:  Read and reread decodable words in connected text.  Decode unknown words rather than guessing from context.  Reread to master texts.  Use text with words children can decode using known correspondences.  Use whole, engaging texts to sustain interest.

There are two general approaches to improving fluency.  The direct approach involves modeling and practice with repeated reading under time pressure.  The indirect approach involves encouraging children to read voluntarily in their free time.


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