Reading 101: A Guide for Parents

Fluency: Activities for Your Second Grader

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!


The goal for your second grade reader is to read the same way he talks, smoothly and with expression that reflects what is happening in the story.

Your child's teacher will give “timed reading passages” where kids read a story and are timed for one minute to record how many words they can read in that time. At the beginning of second grade, most kids can read 50-60 words a minute. By the end of the year, they will build up to reading 90 words a minute. 

What does a fluent reader in second grade look like?

Try these fluency activities at home

Choose the right books

Help your child choose books that he can comfortably read about 90 percent of the words in a few sample pages. If your child wants to choose books that are more challenging, that's okay too, but you may need to help with sounding out multisyllable words or words that are irregular.

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.

Should I be concerned if my child reads slowly?

Literacy expert Kegi Wells explains that what's most important is if your child understands what she's reading. Kegi offers simple ways to check for understanding and how to model expressive reading. (From our video series Reading SOS: Expert Answers to Family Questions About Reading.)

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 second grader 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.

How can I encourage reading when it’s hard for my child?

Literacy expert Kegi Wells explains different strategies to help children to become stronger and more engaged readers, including modeling what fluent, expressive reading sounds like. (From our video series Reading SOS: Expert Answers to Family Questions About Reading.)

Family poetry jam

Start with playful, rhyming poetry about topics that are familiar to your child like animals, food, and bedtime. Nursery rhymes and Mother Goose collections are early favorites. Read the poetry aloud slowly. Emphasize the sound of the words and the rhymes. Read dramatically to emphasize the breaks and phrasing of the poem. Have fun with the colorful language and word play. Reread the poem several times. Once a poem is familiar to your child, take turns reading! First you read one line or one stanza, and have your child read the next. See if you can do that while maintaining the rhythm of the poem. Learn more in this article, Poems at Home (in English and Spanish).

Reader's theater

You don't need a script or costumes or props. Just choose a favorite picture book that your child is familiar with, and one that has lots of dialogue. Take turns reading the passages aloud, using dramatic voices and gestures appropriate to the story. This activity can get pretty silly right away, but it's a great way to practice expression in reading aloud.

Record it

Another fun way to practice reading and build fluency is to have your child create her own audio books. This can be done simply with a tape recorder or audio recording feature or app on your phone. Your child might need a few "takes" to get his reading just right. Sharing your audio recordings with family and friends is a great motivator!

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.

Echo game

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.

Choral reading

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, practice, practice!

Repetition is the key to fluency. Encourage your child to reread a favorite (short) book until she can read it smoothly and easily. This will boost her confidence along with her fluency. You might also ask her to read the book to younger siblings or other family members and friends.

Mastering reading accuracy

Reading tutor Linda Farrell listens closely as Xavier reads aloud from one of his favorite books (Dog Man) to help him focus on reading every word accurately. Strong readers have the habit of reading virtually every word accurately. (From our Looking at Reading Interventions video series.)

How to coach your child to read fluently

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.

Help your young child read fluently

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.

More fluency resources

"The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can't." — Mark Twain