Reading fluency is reasonably accurate reading, at an appropriate rate, with suitable expression, that leads to accurate and deep comprehension and motivation to read.
Hasbrouck and Glaser, 2012
Fluency most often refers to smooth, automatic oral reading. Effective, faster, silent reading usually follows fluent oral reading.
Although it is frequently assessed as though it were, fluency is not “stopwatch reading” (Rasinski, 2012), or reading as fast as you can in one minute and then answering questions about what you read. Fluency is smooth, meaningful reading that includes accurate and automatic pronunciation of words in a passage, with appropriate expression to convey what the passage means. It is communication with a listener, not just fast word reading.
As explained by the International Literacy Association (2018): "Rate is often used mistakenly as a synonym for fluency. However, rate technically refers only to the speed with which students read text. Fluency is far more complex than rate alone. Another common fallacy about rate is that “faster is better,” although most teachers likely know from experience that this is not true. Most teachers have had experiences with students who read quickly but still may not have good comprehension. Speed alone does not facilitate comprehension, and a fast reader is not necessarily a fluent reader. In fact, fast readers may be reading inaccurately or simply reading too quickly to be able to think about what they are reading. The rate, or speed, at which text is decoded and recognized represents an important aspect of fluency and is linked to overall reading proficiency. However, reading fast is not the same as reading fluently" (p. 3).
Dyslexia Connection: During fluency drills, children with dyslexia frequently slur over or skip short words, middle sounds, or syllables in longer words, or stop to decode unknown words. Fluency must be built on solid foundational skills; it can’t replace them.
Teaching Tip: Find the balance. Stretch a struggling reader by pre-teaching difficult words to decode, practicing those words in isolation, discussing their meaning, and then integrating them into fluent reading with expression.
Repeated readings, without the pressure of a stopwatch, are the best way to build automatic word recognition, appropriate phrasing, and prosodic expressions. As Dr. Tim Shanahan (2017) points out, “By reading and rereading a text the students transform it from one they can’t read well to one that they have read well."
Repeating words or phrases with a targeted word family, phonogram, or morpheme is an effective way to build automatic word recognition. However, word work should always be preceded by learning the individual phoneme-grapheme correspondences in a word family, phonogram, or morpheme, and be followed by passage reading that contains the elements being taught. And those passages should be practiced until the reader can read them automatically and with expression (prosody).
Timothy Rasinski's Multi-Dimensional Fluency Rubric Chart (linked on his Resources page) is an excellent resource for measuring fluency, and includes indicators of Expression and Volume, Phrasing, and Smoothness in addition to Pace.
Podcasts & Videos About Fluency
Hasbrouck, J., & Glaser, D.R. (2012). Reading fluency: Understanding and teaching this complex skill. Austin, TX: Gibson Hasbrouck & Associates. p. 13
International Literacy Association. (2018). Reading fluently does not mean reading fast [Literacy leadership brief]. Newark, DE: Author.
Rasinski, T. (2016). Multi-dimensional fluency rubric chart [Document]. From Timothy Rasinski, Ph.D. - Resources page. Timothy Rasinski. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from http://www.timrasinski.com/resources.html
Rasinski, T. V. (2012). Why Reading Fluency Should Be Hot! The Reading Teacher, 65(8), 516–522. https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.01077 Retrieved 15 January, 2022 from https://timrasinski.com/presentations/article_why_fluency_shd_be_hot__rt_may_2012.pdf.
Shanahan, T. (2017, September 17). How to teach fluency so that it takes [Blog post]. Shanahan on literacy. https://www.shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/how-to-teach-fluency-so-that-it-takes#sthash.7EBEkqJb.WgqRFC11.dpbs