When it comes to reading, you may find that there is some kind of disconnect between what your child can read aloud and what they can actually understand of what they just read. This is the difference between fluency and comprehension.
Fluency refers to your child’s ability to decode words quickly and accurately, to recognize words on sight and to be able to say them. Think of your child reading a book aloud. How quickly they read and how accurate they are with what they read is the essence of fluency.
At school, teachers test fluency by having students read a short passage at their reading level, or maybe slightly above or below it, and they time how far they can read in a certain amount of time. They also mark how many mistakes they make, such as if they skip a word, mispronounce a word, etc. This helps them determine an overall fluency rate. They will use passages that are slightly above or below their reading level to help them determine the right reading level for your child to be reading at in class.
Comprehension is another vital component of determining how well a child reads. This is how much of what your child read was understood. The teacher will ask your child questions about the passage, and the questions are on the general idea and the details. They may also ask your child to be able to think abstractly about the story and connect what they read to other ideas.
When teachers combine fluency and comprehension rates, they have a good idea of the reading level of your child. This helps them tailor their reading instruction to your child’s current level of ability and to challenge them to the next level appropriately. It also keeps your child’s frustration level down if they are reading at a level that suits them. Additionally, they are more likely to enjoy reading if they can read about subjects they’re interested in at a level that they can read fluently at and at which they can comprehend what they read.
L. Hughes-Page, M.Ed.
L. Hughes Page is a Field Supervisor to student teachers in the Graduate Department of Education at Gwynedd Mercy University.