How to Develop Reading Fluency

If your child struggles with reading fluency—and listening to him read aloud is a painful experience—then this article is for you!

red robot standing in grass

We’ve all heard kids who read aloud with a choppy, almost robotic tone. It’s hard to grasp the meaning of what they’re reading. They may read too fast, or they may read too slowly and laboriously.

On the other hand, when someone reads aloud with fluency, it’s easy to understand what they are reading, and it’s a delight to listen to them. Fluent readers add emphasis to certain words and convey meaning with their expression.

What Is Reading Fluency?

Fluency is the ability to read with accuracy, proper speed, and meaningful expression.

Fluency is also a significant indicator of reading comprehension. When children can read fluently, it means that instead of using brain power for decoding, they can turn their attention to the meaning of the text.

And it gets even better. When students reach higher levels of fluency, they’re able to tap into metacognitive strategies. This means that they can visualize, question, and interpret what they are reading, and they can think about their own feelings and opinions while reading text. This is the highest level of reading comprehension.

Obviously, fluency is highly desirable. So let’s talk about how we can get your child to this point.

Good Decoding Skills Come First

Don’t even start working on fluency until your child can decode all the words in the text. 

Does your child stumble over words? Substitute words? Need to sound out multiple words on the page? These are all signs that you need to work on decoding first; otherwise, you will both be frustrated.

red robot holding a poster

In All About Reading, we give a lot of attention to decoding before we expect fluency.

  • Kids read words in isolation (on flashcards that we call Word Cards).
  • They read words in phrases.
  • Then they read words in sentences.
  • They encounter the words on fun and motivating activity sheets.
  • And finally, they encounter the words in short stories.

By this point, students have significantly expanded their sight word vocabulary, and they have reached the point of automaticity for most of the words in the story.

THEN—and only then—we work on fluency skills.

The Importance of Vocabulary for Fluency

Does your child understand the meaning of all the words he’s reading?

If not, fluency will be an uphill battle for both of you. Even if he can decode the words properly, when he runs into a word he doesn’t understand, he will be unable to read smoothly and with expression.

red robot trying to sound out a word

Have you ever tried to read a book on a topic you were unfamiliar with? As you encountered words you didn’t know or understand, your fluency probably faltered. And quite likely, by the time you reached the end of a sentence, you had probably forgotten what the first part of the sentence even said.

That’s why we make sure students understand all the words in the short stories in our reading program without dumbing down the stories with simplistic words. On the contrary, we purposely introduce words that are very likely new to the reader. We use interesting, mind-expanding geographic locations, as well as a large variety of historical settings and nationalities.

But we don’t leave readers stranded with no hope of understanding what they are reading.

Instead, we have short attention-grabbing discussions before each story is read. We highlight new vocabulary words through illustrations, and take what the student already knows and use that as a “hook” for the new vocabulary words.

With this method, the student is mentally prepared when he encounters the word again in the short stories. He can read the word smoothly because he knows how it should be pronounced, and he can continue visualizing the storyline in his mind because he isn’t wrestling with the meaning.

When it comes to fluent reading, it’s easy to see why it’s a big help to have a good vocabulary that is relative to what your child is reading about.

Provide a Good Role Model

Another important factor in the development of fluency is the need for fluency role models. When your child hears fluent reading, it will be easier for him to mimic it and then eventually make it his own.

When you read aloud to your child, you’re setting an example. Your child is mentally absorbing your tone, your speed, and your inflections. That’s one of the reasons we encourage you to read aloud to your child for at least 20 minutes every day. Your child will become familiar with how a reader’s voice helps written text make sense.

Audiobooks are another fantastic resource for providing role models, not to mention they help you give your voice a rest! Here are some current favorites, to get you started.

Another thing that happens when your child hears books read aloud is that he learns “phrasing.”

Why Phrasing Helps

Consider this sentence:

reading with fluency sentence 1

This sentence would be really boring to listen to if each word were spoken with even pacing.

reading with fluency sentence 2

Fluent readers naturally group phrases, like this:

reading with fluency sentence 3

They automatically divide text into meaningful chunks, which is called phrasing. Children who have good phrasing intuitively know when to pause.

But what if your child doesn’t know how to do this yet? How can you teach phrasing?

To help your child get the hang of it, you can use a pencil to “swoop” under each phrase.

How to Develop Reading Fluency - All About Reading

Phrasing usually occurs with prepositional phrases, but honestly, your own intuition will serve you well as you mark the page. Think of how you would read the text; there are no absolutely correct answers here, especially as you get into more advanced text.

If you use All About Reading, you’ll see that our Level 1 readers and Practice Sheets from Levels 1-4 are designed with intentional line breaks to help your child learn and understand phrasing. Here’s an example:

sample of a story from a level 1 reader

The pages are formatted to allow beginning readers to read more smoothly and comprehend the text more easily. The line breaks promote natural phrasing.

Encourage Expressive Reading

After years of listening to read-alouds, your child is probably familiar with how to interpret dialogue—reading text the way someone would say it. But it can still take some practice for novice readers to get the hang of adding expression to their own voices.

One way to encourage good expression is to model it with buddy reading. There are several forms of buddy reading, but for encouraging expression, it is most helpful if you read a page and then have your student read the same page after you. Demonstrate how to pay attention to punctuation, and how to emphasize important words.

round up the sheep download graphic

Another great way to practice expressive reading is with an activity like this one from All About Reading.

In “Round Up the Sheep,” your child will discover that the same words can take on a completely different meaning when you say them with different expression. As you can see, encouraging expression and increasing fluency doesn’t have to be boring!

Silent Reading Isn’t as Effective for Improving Reading Fluency

This idea is probably clear from the previous sections, but it’s important enough that I want to be sure to say it outright:

Have your child read aloud, not silently.

Silent reading certainly has its place, but oral reading practice is much more effective in developing fluency.

Having an audience can be motivating and can give your student an opportunity to practice meaningful expression. Encourage your child to read to someone else, such as a sibling, a visiting neighbor, Grandma, or a parent.

Kids Can Self-Assess, Too!

It can be really helpful for kids to hear themselves read. And recording themselves can be fun!

Need an easy way to record? Here’s a recording program you can download for free.

After recording, let your child assess his own reading. How did it sound? Did it sound natural? Choppy? Did he pay attention to punctuation? Encourage him to notice one thing he did well and one thing that needs improvement. Then he can re-record and try to improve. Even professional speakers do this!

The Bottom Line on Improving Reading Fluency

red robot mother and child reading together

Reading fluency develops gradually, but as you can see, there is a lot you can do to promote it.

As long as your child has strong enough decoding skills, the next steps are to:

  • Help build a strong vocabulary.
  • Provide a good role model, whether that is you or fantastic audiobook narrators.
  • Use phrasing and “swooping” to break sentences into meaningful chunks.
  • Tap into buddy reading to encourage expressive reading.
  • Have your child record himself reading, and then self-assess.

And finally, keep encouraging your child! With your help, he won’t read like a robot forever. Fluency will come!

The All About Reading program walks you and your child through all the steps to help your child achieve fluency. The program is multisensory, motivating, and complete, with everything you need to raise a strong reader. And if you need a helping hand, we’re here for you.

All About Reading Product Line

What’s your take on teaching reading fluency? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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Thanks for this article!

Sarah Gibbs


I think reading to kids is always a great idea



Do you have information on how to use the free recording site? Thank you for the encouraging information on how to assist our learning readers.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Smartphones have the ability to record in the camera app, and there are other apps and even computer apps that will record sound or video.

Sharon Field


As a trained Reading Recovery teacher the information in this post is spot on. Thank you for providing this information for everyone. I have found the most important support for children is reading to them and having them read to us. It develops a love of reading and if we share a variety of genres it will help them find the types of books they will enjoy reading on their own.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Sharon!

Prof.Anil S.Patnekar





I love this article! It was one of my biggest struggles with public school prior to withdrawing my daughter. They kept pushing fluency & she couldn’t read. It makes zero sense to work on fluency if a child is still learning to read.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m familiar with this trend, Tracy. The push for fluency and reading speed is a push for kids to simply memorize high-frequency words without giving them the skills they need to be able to read any word they have not seen before. While in the short term it can increase reading, it can have the opposite effect in the long term.



These are very helpful. It’s our first time to do homeschool this year. I love the part of teaching vocabulary to my son before asking him to read the story. That strategy helps a lot for him to read, understand and enjoy the story. It amazes me how he loves using the new words that he learned in our everyday conversation and he will say “That’s my big boy word, Mom.” Thank you again

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re very welcome, Kate! And thank you for sharing how the warm-up and pre-reading activities in All About Reading are helping your child do so well with the stories and increasing his vocabulary! It’s wonderful to hear it is working so well.



I really like the ideas from your article.I will use them to help some children with reading problems in my class

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this will be helpful for your class, Njeri! Let me know if you have questions not covered here.



What is the age group to start this program with?
I have a 5th grader and her reading is really choppy and she can barely pronounce big words. Will this help with her?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Our All About Reading program has been used with students of all ages, even teens and adults!

I do think this program can help your student. Start with our placement tests to see which level she would begin with.

We do have a one-year “Go Ahead and Use It” money-back guarantee. We never want anyone to feel “stuck” with their purchase, and want them to feel free to really try the program. You can see if it will help your student with minimal risk.



Thank you for the beautiful ideas
I was doing some of the things erratically
But now you motivated me to work more
I work with struggling readers even in grade 7,this has motivated.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for your work with struggling readers, Mapitso!

You may find our blog posts 10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner and Signs of a Reading Problem helpful as well.

Please let me know if you have any specific concerns or questions.

Celena Carlson


Love these tips!



This is so helpful! We just started homeschooling our rising second grader and kindergartener. I can’t wait to put these tools into practice.

Angela Outram


Informative and makes good sence

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Angela!

Brooke Miller


I love the activities! I currently taking a grad class, and I have to find an article or blog over fluency. I would like to reference this one. Can you tell me the original publishing date? Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

This blog article was published on April 6, 2020. I hope you do very well in your class!

Molly MacPherson


Thank you so much for your thoughtful insights and wonderful curriculum. We have just started homeschooling our children (11,9,6 ) and I’m looking forward to using some of these strategies with each of them. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are very welcome, Molly. And if you have any questions or need more information as you begin, just ask!



This is so helpful! Thank you! It now makes sense why my son prefers silent reading and doesn’t want to make an effort to do expressing reading. I look forward on starting this program from Level 1!



This aspect make me most interested in using your program for my budding 1st grader.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions or need more information? Let me know if you need anything as you look into All About Reading.



Great information. I’ve been letting my son read silently but this is making me realize I should keep having him reading aloud.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

There is a place for both. But when students are still learning to read and developing their abilities, it is important to hear them reading aloud for at least a few minutes every day. If you don’t, then you won’t know if they are skipping words, guessing at words, having trouble reading with expression, or other issues. But they can also read silently for pleasure or for additional reading practice.



Great explanations! Thank you for breaking things down



Great article! My child struggles with reading fluency, but it manifests I’m quieter than normal speaking and mumbling, even when he Knows the words.
Any helpful tips for this?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That is a sign that your child lacks confidence in his reading. One thing you can do is build confidence by practicing reading aloud to you daily. Many children that struggle with fluency benefit from rereading the same story two or even three days in a row. You could try that too.

Also make sure you are asking him to read aloud to you from books that are his at his comfortable level. If you are unsure what that is, start with books that you know will be easy. Reading easy books builds confidence and allows children to practice smooth, fluent reading. Then slowly increase the difficulty over time, but don’t move beyond what he is able to read with confidence.

I hope this helps, but let me know if you have additional questions. I’d love to hear how it goes over the next month or two.



This was super informative! Thank you for laying out the steps to promote fluency (and reading comprehension). I am so excited to start level 1 with my child and put this into practice to promote success.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was informative for you, Kelly! Let me know if you have questions or need anything at any time.



I hadn’t realized where the snag was with my son because he can read and sound out words pretty well, but he reads in such run-on sentences. He never stops for punctuation and adds words when it’s not there. This blog has me seeing I need to start over in a couple areas with him to make sure he’s grasping what he’s reading and not in a race to just spit all the words out.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful for you, Cierra! I think you will find our Reading with Expression: 5 Teaching Tips and a Free Printable blog post especially helpful.

Let me know if you have any questions or need anything.

Jesica R


I love that you covered this. It is absolutely important and I feel like I forget this in homeschooling sometimes (moreso around this time of the year)- that It’s not just about moving through the curriculum, but about what they retain, and how that is exactly the reason we chose to homeschool.

Rachel Johnson


Good info. Something my kiddo needs to practice.



My 10 year old has an IEP for reading fluency. What I read above is exactly her. Making up words, no grouping of words, hard time sounding out words, etc. We have been trying to help her read fluently just by constantly reading aloud, but that does not work and only frustrates her. I definitely believe that something was missed somewhere along the line. Perhaps decoding of words.
Would you suggest starting over completely at level 1 at her age?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I recommend using our placement tests to help you determine which level to begin with. She might need to begin with level 1, to become fluent with words at that level, but she may be able to start at a higher level.

Start with the placement test that seems to be on the level she is reading now and have her read the story in the placement test. If she can read that story with fluency, having trouble with only a few words per page, go onto the rest of the placement test. If she struggles to read the story fluently, then move down the previous placement test.

Let me know how it goes or if you need further help with placement.
Robin E.

Iris Albina


Your reading/spelling program is absolutely lovely, if only I could get hold of it! I appreciate the research and work that has gone into it. Through this pandemic, I have been helping my grandson, who is a beautiful slow reader, online, as I am stuck on an island, and he is in British Columbia. Sadly, I cannot get hold of your reading books to be able to work with him in a more efficient manner; they do not seem to be for sale in Canada, and libraries are closed. So I do what I can with what you offer online. Any ideas? Would it be possible for me to download a copy of your readers at Levels 1 and 2?
p.s. I am a retired teacher, having taught French Immersion at the elementary level and English at both the elementary and high school levels.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Our materials are available in Canada! We have a number of Canadian distributors. Here is our list:

Canadian Home Education Resources, Calgary, AB
Classical Education Books, Langley, BC
Excellent Resources, Mill Bay, BC
Smarts the Education Store, Celista, BC
Vernon Teach and Learn Ltd, Vernon, BC
Heritage Resources, Carman, MB
Tree of Life School & Book Service Ltd. Weston, NB
The Learning House, St Goderich, ON
LMP Teaching Connections, Regina, SK

We don’t have our materials available beyond our samples.



What level of All ABout Reading do I start to help an older student with fluency? Also, should All About Spelling be used with All About Reading?
Thank you.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

We would recommend using our placement tests to determine where to start students. The placement tests for levels 2, 3, and 4 include sample stories for the student to read. Use them to evaluate (without correcting your student) for the following:

– Your student’s ability to decode the words in the story.
– Your student’s ability to comprehend the story.
– Could your student fluently read the story with expression?
– Did your student understand the words from a vocabulary standpoint?

You want your student to be reading fluently with good comprehension before going to a higher level.

As for All About Spelling, we do recommend it using it along with All About Reading. AAS teaches words from the spelling angle and AAR teaches words from the reading angle.

I hope this helps, but please let me know if you have any questions or need more information.

Sally Chancellor


I am so glad audiobooks can count as a good example, my poor voice doesn’t like to read aloud nearly as much as my kids want!



Great tips! Can’t wait to try this program. I heard it’s great for dyslexics.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes! Both All About Reading and All About Spelling are Orton-Gillingham based. This is a proven approach for helping students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. Marie Rippel, author and creator of the programs, is a member of the International Dyslexia Association and has instructed graduate-level courses in Orton-Gillingham Literacy Training offered through Nicolet College in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. She is also a member of Pro Literacy, has previously served on the Board of Directors of the Literary Task Force in Wisconsin, and tutored students for more than 20 years. Marie’s son is severely dyslexic, and being told by experts that he would never learn to read led directly to her creating All About Reading and All About Spelling. You can see a short video about her son’s story here.

You’ll find our Dyslexia Resources Page helpful.

Please let me know if you need more information or have any questions.

Merysa Cortez


COVID is making online learning difficult so we might be switching to home school. This program looks perfect for learning! Thank you! :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Merysa! Let me know if you have any questions or need anything.

Jennifer Chandler


Thank you for the information about fluency! It really helped me to understand it better.