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Reading Fluency Activities: Tips for Identifying Issues

Simple and practical ways to support fluent reading.

Engaging kids in fun reading fluency activities can significantly improve their speed, accuracy, and expression.

We’ve dug deep to collect a variety of creative activities designed to boost reading skills in a playful and enjoyable manner. These activities, from interactive games to storytelling techniques, are perfect for turning young readers into fluent storytellers.

Key Takeaways

  1. Read aloud to your child every day.
  2. Have your child read aloud to you.
  3. Listen to audiobooks and follow the words in print.
  4. Practice choral reading.
  5. Use readers’ theater.
  6. Create reading fluency games.

What Is Reading Fluency?

Reading fluency is the ability to read accurately, at an appropriate speed, and with suitable emotional expression (1). To be considered a fluent reader, a child must do the following when reading out loud:

  • Read most words correctly.
  • Be able to work out unfamiliar words quickly.
  • Correctly address punctuation.
  • Read the text at a speed slow enough to understand but not so slowly that the words do not “flow.”
  • Use appropriate emotional expression and emulate the rhythm of speech.

Why Is Reading Fluency Important?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, two out of three children in the 4th grade are not fluent readers (2). To put that in context, if a class has 35 kids, 23 of them will not have age-appropriate fluent reading skills.

More worrying still, there are some pretty worrisome statistics about children who are not fluent readers by the time they reach the end of fourth grade:

  • They are four times more likely to leave school without graduating.
  • They are two to three times more likely to end up in jail or on welfare.

However, it’s not difficult to help children reach the goal of fluent reading. A study that looked at third-grade readers who were struggling at the beginning of the school year discovered the following:

  • Those who ended the year at or above the third-grade reading fluency level read for only six minutes a day more than those who did not (3).
  • Children in third grade who hit age-appropriate reading fluency benchmarks read for an average of 20 minutes a day.

Reading fluency activities can help put your child on a solid path to success. It allows us to concentrate on the content of the text rather than the individual words. A child who is not a fluent reader may be doing the following:

  • Concentrating on individual words.
  • Breaking up the flow of the text by stopping to decode words.
  • Misinterpreting the meaning of a text because they miss punctuation or emphasize the wrong words.

What Causes Poor Reading Fluency?

The reasons for poor reading fluency are many and varied, but here are a few potential causes:

We Do Not Teach Fluency

We teach our children to read, but most children learn the fluency component of reading without any specific instruction. We give lessons in sounding words out and phonetics. We do not give lessons in reading aloud in the same way we speak, with natural rhythm and expression (4).

As a result, children who do not pick it up naturally may have problems with fluency.

Minimal Early Exposure To Reading

Children who struggle to read fluently often start school with little, if any, exposure to books or other regular forms of reading. When we do not read to our children, they have limited opportunities to hear how reading should sound.

Children who are not exposed to books are also at a disadvantage because they have not had the opportunity to see written words, learn some sight words, or associate the sounds of letters with written letters.

Consequently, these children are in danger of falling further behind their peers.

Learning Disabilities

Many children who face challenges with reading fluency have learning disabilities. These disabilities do not necessarily have any relation to a child’s intelligence. Instead, they impact the ways in which a child is able to learn (5).

Think of it as a journey across the country that most people will take by airplane. A child with a learning disability is like a person who cannot fly. There is nothing wrong with their ability to travel or arrive at the same destination; they just need to use a different mode of transportation.

Unfortunately, children with learning disabilities may be undiagnosed, or they may not have access to specialist teaching methods to help them achieve fluent reading skills.


Children who struggle with reading may begin to view it as a stressful activity. As a result, they will avoid reading, which prevents them from developing reading fluency.

Identifying Reading Fluency Problems

A child who is struggling with reading fluency may (6):

  • Find it difficult and become frustrated by reading aloud.
  • Avoid reading altogether.
  • Speak negatively about reading.
  • Score poorly on words-per-minute tests at school.
  • Move their lips when reading silently.
  • Know how to sound out words but not explain the meaning of the text.

Reading Fluency Activities

There are many fun and engaging ways to help boost a reader’s fluency.

Many of these activities are used in the classroom but work equally well at home.

Read Aloud To Your Child

The best thing you can do to help your child improve their reading fluency is read aloud to them. Sitting together with a book and reading to your child demonstrates the sounds, rhythms, and emotions of fluent reading.

Run your finger under the words you’re reading as you say them. Use plenty of expression and emotion while you are reading. This will help draw your child into the story and capture their interest.

Concentrating on the story’s content will also help your child view the text as a whole and not focus on individual words.

Make sure this is a time for reading together and enjoying the story. Whether your child is 2 years old or 10 years old, they will love hearing you read to them and enjoy the uninterrupted time together.

Don’t break up the flow by pointing out particular words and asking if your child knows what the word says. Don’t worry about mentioning that you are reading with emotion and rhythm.

Do interrupt the flow of the book when the following happens:

  • Your child asks about a word or the content of the story.
  • There is a natural break in the flow. You can use this pause to discuss the story with your child. The end of a chapter is a great time for this.
  • Your child indicates they do not want to read anymore.

Make Use Of Audio Books

You don’t have to shell out money for expensive books and recordings to make use of audiobooks. You can read aloud to your child and make your own recording of a book you already own.

Most libraries have audiobooks available in various formats, including online downloadable options. Alternatively, you can find free audiobooks for kids online from a variety of websites.

Many of these come with a printable version of the book so you can follow along.

There are several ways to use audiobooks to help with reading fluency:

  • Use the recording without the accompanying book. Then, when your child is familiar with the story, introduce the physical book and ask them to read it to you. To prevent your child from reciting the story from memory, ask them to read from a page other than the first.
  • Sit with your child and, as you would with straightforward reading, follow the story with them in the book.
  • Allow your child to listen to the recording alone, following the story in the book as they go. This is most appropriate when your child has become more engaged. If they are not, they will likely listen to the story and not follow in the book.
  • Create a book to go with a recording they already have. You can make comic books together, use favorite songs, or even write the script of a favorite movie or TV show.

Practice Sight Words

You don’t need to purchase packs of flashcards for your child to read.

Instead, try one or several of these options:

  • Make your own cards, and use them to create simple sentences together.
  • Print or write out short paragraphs, and ask your child to highlight particular words.
  • Play games such as Sight Words Battleship, Dot Sticker Sight Words, or one of the many other homemade games you can find online.


Have your child memorize some short books or stories. This will help them become familiar with the words and the story and give them confidence when they begin to read written words.

Memorization also helps your child become familiar with the rhythm of the written word and recognize words in other texts (7).

Buddy Reading

Does your child have a friend or sibling they enjoy spending time with? If they do, and this friend or sibling enjoys reading, try buddy reading.

Buddy reading allows struggling readers to listen to a story and read aloud in a comforting, familiar environment. They will hear the speech patterns of a more confident reader and may be encouraged to try reading aloud themselves.

Buddy reading can also expose your child to books, other reading materials, and genres they might otherwise not consider.

Echo Reading

Echo reading is exactly what it sounds like. You read aloud and have your child read the same piece back to you.

Echo reading allows your child to model their “reading voice” based on yours. It gives them the opportunity to practice tone and rhythm without worrying about what the words say.

Start by reading one short sentence at a time. Then, slowly increase the amount of text you read before your child repeats it.

Once your child shows some confidence, have them point to the words as they say them.

Choral Reading

Choral reading can be a little more difficult for some children. But for others, it works well.

You and your child will read the words of the text aloud at the same time.

This can help a child who feels self-conscious when reading aloud alone in a classroom setting. However, it can also help a child cover up their lack of reading fluency skills because they become lost in the group.

Choral reading at home can be fun for your child. Place emphasis on voices for different characters and have your child do the same.

Simple poetry and books with a distinct, repetitive rhythm are excellent for choral reading.

Phrased Reading

Phrase reading, sometimes called scoop or scooping reading, does not emphasize individual words. Instead, a child is encouraged to read an entire phrase or group of words.

This doesn’t mean long sentences. Instead, they read short groups of two or three words.

Short poems and stories with a clear rhythm work well for phrased reading.

To help your child improve reading fluency with phrased reading, you only need some paper and colored markers.

Write out a line or two from a favorite book or song. Then, read the phrases aloud, noting where you make a natural pause. Draw a “scoop” under each phrase.

Next, your child can “swoop” under the phrase as they read it aloud.

This technique is excellent for a child who struggles with reading aloud with natural speech patterns. The visual of the scoop provides a clear indicator of where to pause. This gives your child the confidence that they are “doing it right.”

Repeated Reading

Repeated reading is when your child reads the same text over and over. They do this until they can read the text fluently.

You can use repeated reading in conjunction with other strategies, such as paired, choral, and phrased reading.

By having your child repeat the same text, they will have the chance to build fluency. This is how it works:

  1. The first time your child reads the text, they falter because they are trying to work out individual words.
  2. Your child may still falter the next few times as they learn to recognize the words.
  3. Eventually, your child will read with confidence because they recognize the now-familiar words.

Some children enjoy this technique. They thrive on the opportunity to read and reread until they are fluent. This is an excellent confidence booster and encourages children to read more.

Other children may not enjoy repeated reading. They become bored with reading the same text multiple times.

Children with a low frustration threshold find this technique especially difficult. Repeatedly struggling with the same words in a short space of time can result in anxiety and insecurity about their abilities.

Reader’s Theater

Reader’s Theater is a reading fluency technique in which children read out parts in a script. They do not have to memorize the part; they just have to be able to read the script aloud with appropriate emotion.

This technique’s advantage is that it allows you to focus on the rhythm, flow, and emotion of the reading. This distracts the child from any negative associations they may have with reading aloud.

Parents can use this technique at home by writing their own silly scripts or adapting a book into a script.

Reading Fluency Games

If I could give just one piece of advice about helping your child read, it would be to keep it fun.

Reading should be something your child enjoys or at least can tolerate without negative connotations.

It’s easy to find reading fluency games you can recreate at home. However, the sheer number of search results can be overwhelming.

We’ve taken the time to weed through the many results and have successfully used these reading fluency games with our own children.

1. Oh Snap

You need a marker, some popsicle sticks, and a container for this game. You will also need to know common sight words or words your child is learning at school.

Here’s how to make your own reading fluency “Oh Snap” game:

  1. Write a word on the end of each popsicle stick. Use common sight words or words you know your child is learning at school.
  2. On the end of three popsicle sticks, write “Oh Snap.”
  3. Place the sticks, word end down, into a container you cannot see through.

Game rules:

  1. Take turns removing one stick at a time out of the pot.
  2. When you remove a stick, you must read aloud the word at the end.
  3. If you get the word right, you keep the stick.
  4. If you cannot read the word or read it incorrectly, you put the stick back in the pot.
  5. When someone takes an “Oh Snap” stick out of the pot, they must put all the sticks they have won back in the container.

There are two ways you can play this game:

  • Set a timer. When it beeps, the player with the most sticks is the winner.
  • The first player to a certain number of sticks wins.

2. Swat The Sight Word

To make the reading fluency game, “Swat The Sight Word,” you will need these supplies:

  • Paper.
  • Markers.
  • A plastic fly swatter, spatula, or a similar item for each child.

Write some of the common sight words, or words your child is struggling with, on pieces of paper. Make them large enough to see from a distance.

Place the words around the room, the yard, or even the park on a good weather day.

When you shout out a sight word, the first player to find the word and swat it wins the word.

This can be a fun activity on its own, or you can have a winner. The winner is the first player to X number of words in a set time period.

3. Go Fish

It’s easy to make your own reading fluency version of the classic children’s card game “Go Fish.”

You will need the following:

  • Marker pens.
  • Cards.
  • Scissors.


Write a single sight word on one side of each card. You can use phrases to make the game more difficult for more advanced readers. Ensure there are either two, four, or six of each word, as you will be pairing them up.

To play:

  1. Deal five, seven, or nine cards, face down, to each player
  2. Place the rest of the cards in a single pile face down on the table.
  3. The first player is the “fisher.” The fisher asks one of the other players, “Do you have….?” and inserts one of the sight words or phrases for which they have a card.
  4. If the player has the word, they must hand it over to the fisher. The fisher places the pair of cards on the table in front of them. The fisher can then ask another play, “Do you have?” and so on, until someone says, “No, I do not have that. Go Fish.”
  5. The fisher then takes a card from the top of the pile, and the next player becomes the fisher.

The game ends when a player gets rid of all of their cards. The player with the most pairs wins.

Other Tips For Improving Reading Fluency

  • Don’t restrict your reading to books. Look for words while you are out and about. Encourage your child to read aloud the words they see on road signs, in the store, and wherever else you are.
  • Choose reading materials that match your child’s skill level. Do not choose more difficult books to “stretch” your child. They are more likely to frustrate them and put them off.
  • If they get a word wrong while reading, let them continue to the end of the sentence. Sometimes, the context of the word can help your child decode it. However, if you jump in as soon as they get a word wrong, your child will not have the chance to discover their mistake and correct it themselves.
  • When your child makes a mistake, choose your words carefully. Don’t lose patience or tell them they are wrong. Instead, ask them to try the word again or tell them the correct way of saying the word.
  • Encourage your child to write their own story.

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About the Author

Patricia Barnes

Patricia Barnes is a homeschooling mom of 5 who has been featured on Global TV, quoted in Parents magazine, and writes for a variety of websites and publications. Doing her best to keep it together in a life of constant chaos, Patti would describe herself as an eclectic mess maker, lousy crafter, book lover, autism mom, and insomniac.