Fluency in Word Identification

Fluency refers to the rapid, efficient, accurate identification of written text. Oral reading that is reasonably accurate, is expressive, and is accomplished at an appropriate rate is a good indication of strong word identification skills (Anderson et al., 1985; Samuels, 1985). Fluent readers, however, frequently make some substitutions, omissions, or additions of words while reading orally. Minor changes do not affect the reader's ability to construct reasonable meaning from the text and do not require correction (Anderson, Everson, & Brophy, 1979; Hoffman, O'Neal, Kastler, Clements, Segel, & Nash, 1984). If fluent readers misidentify a word so that it adversely affects the meaning of the text, they are likely to detect the disruption and correct the error themselves (Au, 1977; Clay, 1969; Weber, 1970).

While there are many activities that can be used to help children develop reading fluency, the following seem particularly noteworthy:

Repeated Readings

Schreiber (1980), Samuels (1979), and Pflaum and Pascarella (1980) all present evidence that repeated readings of a text build fluency for that text and other selections as well, by promoting familiarity with the visual forms of words that will appear in other contexts. The process is cumulative: The more familiar words children encounter, the more likely they are to draw meaning from the text, which, in turn, strengthens their ability to figure out still more words. This growing familiarity with words in print facilitates more rapid fluent reading. For young children, shared reading provides an effective vehicle for improving word identification through repetition.

See also Emergent Literacy/Beginning Reading

Extensive Independent Reading

Independently reading a large number of texts promotes student progress in reading (Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988; Ingham, 1981; Taylor, Frye, & Maruyama, 1990). Children who read widely build familiarity with the printed forms of many words, particularly those words that occur over and over again in printed language. These words, often referred to as high-frequency words, represent a large proportion of the words in beginning reading materials, and many of them are difficult to recognize in print through the use of phonics (e.g., the, was, to). Children who can recognize these words rapidly and effortlessly are more likely to read a passage fluently.

Familiarity with Written Language

While there are enormous similiarities between written and oral language, there are some subtle differences. For example, written language tends to be more formal, to be less redundant, and to use more sophisticated vocabulary. As noted earlier, language clues play an important part in an effective, fluent word identification strategy (Adams, 1990; Johnson & Baumann, 1984). The best way to help young children become familiar with the structure of written language is to read aloud to them; the resulting positive effects on children's reading achievement have been well documented (Adams, 1990; Anderson et al., 1985).
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