Reading Fluency Definition

Reading fluency is the ability to read with comprehension, accuracy, speed, and expression. I like to refer to it as CASE:


C = comprehension

A = accuracy

S = speed

E = expression

  1. Comprehension: Comprehension refers to understanding. If students don’t understand what they are reading, they are simply word calling. You can assess text comprehension by asking students to answer comprehension questions, having students tell/write a summary of what they read, or letting students have discussions about the text. If students can ready quickly, accurately, and smoothly, they will be able to focus on what they are reading, which leads to greater comprehension.
  2. Accuracy: Accuracy means that students know words automatically as they read, without having to put forth much effort. Research suggests that students who miss more than 10% of the words in a text are probably reading a text that is too difficult. If students are mispronouncing, omitting, or inserting words more than 10% of the time (more than 1 out of every 10 words), it would be helpful to provide an easier text for that student.
  3. Speed: Speed refers to the rate of reading. Usually we measure this is WPM (words per minute). Sometimes you will see this as WCMP (words correct per minute). There are many different ways to calculate and evaluate a student’s reading speed. There are even formulas to use. No matter what you use, the way you count students’ words is the same. You time them (usually for a minute) and see how many words they read. You count the words they read. If they missed a word (mispronounced, omitted, skipped, etc.) then you would subtract these from their total. For example, if a student read 150 words, but missed 5 of them, you would say they read 145 words correctly. If you would like a copy of the chart that I use for fluency goals, you may find that here
  4. Expression: Expression means that a student reads so that it sounds like they are speaking to someone. In other words, their reading is smooth. They use appropriate phrasing, pitch, and tone. This is also known as prosody. 

So what does all this tell you, as a classroom teacher?


Fluency is important. It takes all of the components above to build fluent readers. There are many ways to strengthen your students fluency. Here are some suggestions:

  • give your students appropriate materials for reading instruction
  • model oral reading by reading aloud to children
  • provide time for students to read independently
  • provide audio recordings for students to listen to
  • let students read with partners
  • purchase or make “fluency phones” or “whisper phones” 
  • provide students with reading fluency passages and encourage repeated readings

Would you like to try some free reading passages to help your students build their fluency? Simply enter your name and email below and I will send them to you today!

2 Responses

  1. Hi Monica,
    I am a Special Educator of nearly thirty years and have a set of your reading passages I am using with my students. These were left by the last teacher and I am not sure of the Grade Equivalency. They start with a passage on sharks?
    Any help?
    Thank you so much.

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