Reading fluency is a child's ability to read a book or other text accurately, with reasonable speed, and with appropriate expression. A fluent reader doesn't have to stop and "decode" each word and can focus attention on what the story or text means. Fluency is the bridge between decoding words and understanding what has been read!
This project was developed in partnership with the National Education Association and Colorín Colorado.
Your kindergartener is at the beginning stages of reading, and is working hard to master letter sounds, decode simple words, and recognize common sight words. You want to support these new reading skills without putting too much pressure on your child to read more quickly and with more expression. That kind of natural-sounding fluency comes with lots and lots of practice.
You can start gently to build your child's fluency with the activities provided here. Remember that every child develops at a different pace, and your child may not be ready for some of these activities until first grade.
What does a fluent reader in kindergarten look like?
Try these fluency activities at home
Choose the right books
Help your child choose books that he can comfortably read. The "five-finger test" is a useful guideline for beginning readers. As your child reads, count the number of words he cannot read per page. In general, there should be five words or fewer that give him trouble on each page. If a book contains several pages on which you count more than five words that he can't read, consider reading that book to your child until he develops more reading skill.
Listen every day
Once you've found a collection of books that your child can read, listen to your child read every day. Be patient — new readers often read slowly! Offer help when your child gets stuck, and always give lots of praise and encouragement.
Reread favorite books
Building fluency takes a lot of practice! Keep a collection of books that your child can read quickly and easily. Encourage your child to reread favorite books over and over again. With each reading, you may notice your child reading a bit easier, a bit faster, and with a bit more confidence and expression.
Read to your child every day
Model your own fluent reading as you read and reread books with your child. Even though your child may be able to read on her own, continue to find time each day to read books to her that are just beyond her reading level. She will enjoy listening to more advanced stories, and she will hear a great example of fluent reading — how you change your expression throughout a story and read with ease. Your child will hear how you raise your voice at the end of question sentence or how you change your voice for different characters.
Paired or "buddy" reading
Take turns reading aloud. You go first, as your reading provides a model of what good fluent reading sounds like. Then, ask your child to re-read the same page you just read. You'll notice that your child's reading will start to sound more and more like yours. Do this for several pages. Once your child is comfortable enough, and familiar enough with the book, take turns reading page for page.
Choose a book at your child's reading level and read a sentence aloud using appropriate expression and pauses. Then, have your child mimic you, reading the same sentence and using the same expression and pauses. Repeat the game every few paragraphs as you read through the book.
Choose a book at your child's reading level and read a page or passage together in unison. You may have to slow your reading down a little to keep pace, but don’t slow down too much. Encourage your child to copy your pace and expression
Practice fluency 3 ways: echo reading, partner reading, and repeated reading
This video is from Home Reading Helper, a resource for parents to elevate children’s reading at home provided by Read Charlotte. Find more video, parent activities, printables, and other resources at Home Reading Helper.
Sight words are common words kids have to recognize instantly without sounding them out. Many sight words are tricky to read — they aren’t spelled the way they sound. The activity and videos below discuss how sight word recognition supports fluency, and offer easy ways to help your child learn them. Here's a list of common sight words for kindergarten.
Sight word spy
Tell your child that sight words are "hiding in plain sight" everywhere around us. Your child's "mission" is to spot the sight words out in the world (in the grocery store, on a sign, cereal box, or movie poster) and announce "aha, I found you! This silly game can get your child excited about recognizing words — as well as a boost of confidence from knowing how to read them.
Getting stuck on sight words
Many striving readers struggle with sight words. Reading expert Linda Farrell suggests this teaching sequence: first, be sure your child knows all the letter names, then all the letter sounds — and then you can introduce a few short high-frequency words such as was. Choose words that don't have regular phonetic spelling. (From our video series Reading SOS: Expert Answers to Family Questions About Reading.)