Fluency is an essential component of early reading instruction because of its strong relationship with reading comprehension.
While good phonics instruction will lead to efficient word reading, text reading fluency will not always spontaneously follow. Focused fluency instruction and early intervention are necessary parts of a comprehensive literacy program if all children are to become proficient readers.
The relationship between fluency and reading comprehension has been established in multiple studies . For example, Lai et al. (2014) found that oral reading fluency accounted for almost all of the variability in reading comprehension among second grade students. The strong relationship between fluency and comprehension has also been found for students learning English as a second language (Pey et al., 2014) and children learning to read in languages other than English (Kim et al., 2014; Martins & Capellini, 2018).
Reading fluency is an important part of reading proficiency and reading a text fluently is critical for comprehending it.
Fluency combines accuracy, automaticity, and oral reading prosody, which, taken together, facilitate the reader’s construction of meaning. It is demonstrated during oral reading through ease of word recognition, appropriate pacing, phrasing, and intonation. It is a factor in both oral and silent reading that can limit or support comprehension.
[S]ystematic, direct and explicit instruction of reading fluency is considered imperative, since many students and mostly those with reading difficulties face problems in reading speed and prosody, despite their adequate decoding skills.
Some studies also show that fluency has a developmental element. In the early years, fluent single word reading is a strong predictor of reading comprehension, but as texts become more complex, text or passage reading fluency is a stronger influence (Kim & Wagner, 2015).
Research has also shown a two-way relationship between reading fluency and comprehension: when children read more fluently they understand what they read better, and when children understand what they are reading they read more fluently. However, fluency has stronger effect on comprehension than vice versa (Klauda & Guthrie, 2008; Pikulski & Chard, 2005).