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The Importance of Reading Fluency

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Reading fluency is the ability to read accurately at the rate of natural speech. A fluent reader recognizes each word by sight. The words in sentences and paragraphs are quickly grouped together allowing the reader to gain meaning from the information.

What is the big deal about reading fluency?

People who read fluently read with minimal effort. The words and sentences are processed quickly and accurately. A child who reads fluently is more likely to enjoy reading. The early grades focus on teaching a child to read. Starting in 4th grade, the child reads to learn. Children who are not fluent readers will suffer academically. Texts will take more time to get through and process. Learning new material may become downright frustrating.

One of the biggest predictors of reading comprehension is reading fluency. In most children, if they are able to read fluently, they also have high levels of comprehension on grade-level texts. Children who are are not able to read fluently, may have low levels of comprehension due to putting all of their effort into the decoding process.

To measure a child’s reading fluency, conduct a running record. A running record can be completely regularly to evaluate a child’s progress. Children who are having difficulty reading should have their fluency rates checked monthly. Children who are progressing should have their fluency progress measured at least every 3-6 months. The table below lists target fluency rates at each grade level.

Table* with target fluency rates, errors, and accuracy

Level Rate per minute Number of Errors Allowed Accuracy
4th grade and up 140 words 7 and under 95-100%
3rd grade 140 end of year

110 beginning of year

7 and under 95-100%
2nd grade 100 end of year

70 beginning of year

5 and under 95-100%
1st grade 50 end of year

30 beginning of year

3 and under 95-100%

*Based off of Howell, Zucker, & Morehead (1982)

In summary, reading fluency is an important skill that can drastically affect comprehension. Fluent readers are able to accurately and quickly recognize text. Although different sources may have slight variations on the expected rate and accuracy per grade level, use the above information as a general guide. If your child is able to read fluently, but not able to comprehend grade-level texts, other factors may be inhibiting the ability to understand print. Memory, language, and prior knowledge can also impact reading comprehension.


  • CLICK HERE to read an article on methods to improve reading fluency.
  • The following text is available on Amazon. It has high reviews and includes videos demonstrating techniques to improve reading fluency.


Howell, K. W., Zucker, S. H., & Morehead, M. K. (1982). Multilevel Academic Skills Inventory-Revised. Columbus, OH: Merrill


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