Reading fluency is more than just reading rate. It includes reading with accuracy, expression, appropriate rate, and understanding. Children who read fluently recognize words and automatically decode unknown words. They read the number of words correct per minute that are appropriate for their grade level and the text they encounter. They read with expression including pitch, stress, tempo, and rhythm of spoken language and use meaningful phrasing. They also remember and interpret what is read.
Reading fluency is important because these four elements of reading fluency must be present in order for children to read their grade level material. If your child is weak in any area of fluency, it will affect his ability to successfully read and respond to grade level texts.
For example, when we were working with an average fourth grade class in a public school, the students were assigned to read a fourth-grade passage in two minutes with a discussion to follow. However, in those two minutes, some of the children could only read the first paragraph of the passage. They were unable to take part in the discussion because they hadn’t read it! Therefore, they were at risk for failure! Not because they couldn’t understand it, but because they weren’t able to read the whole passage. A child can’t understand what he can’t read.