Monday, July 19, 2010

Reading Fluency: Optimal Silent and Oral Reading Rates

Neil J. Anderson, professor of Linguistics and English Language at Brigham Young University, recently presented at the Reading Horizons distributor seminar in Salt Lake City, Utah. He shared some interesting information about how English Language Learners (ELLs) benefit from systematic phonics instruction. Two of the reasons he cited include the following: 1) reading fluency increases as students learn to decode words; and 2) oral reading improves when students can decode words correctly.

Reading fluency, as defined by Neil Anderson, is "reading at an appropriate rate with adequate comprehension" (Anderson, 2008, p. 3). This definition of reading fluency is important as teachers consider what an "appropriate reading rate" is for their students. Remember that reading at a quick pace (an "appropriate rate") without comprehending what is being read is not fluent reading. Additionally, reading super slowly and understanding everything being read ("adequate comprehension") likewise is not fluent reading. The balance between the two--reading rate and comprehension--is important to fluency.

So what constitutes an "appropriate rate"? During the presentation, Anderson referenced national averages for optimal silent and oral reading rates by grade level (Hasbrouck & Tindal, 2006). I wanted to share this information below: 

Silent Reading Rates
1st grade: 80 wpm
2nd grade: 115 wpm
3rd grade: 138 wpm
4th grade: 158 wpm
5th grade: 173 wpm
6th grade: 185 wpm
7th grade: 195 wpm
8th grade: 204 wpm
9th grade: 214 wpm
10th grade: 224 wpm
11th grade: 237 wpm
12th grade: 250 wpm
College or University: 280 wpm

Oral Reading Rates
1st grade: 53 wpm
2nd grade: 89 wpm
3rd grade: 107 wpm
4th grade: 123 wpm
5th grade: 139 wpm
6th grade: 150 wpm
7th grade: 150 wpm
8th grade: 151 wpm

Notice that oral reading rates beyond the 8th grade level are not listed. This is due to the fact that when we read aloud, we generally do not read faster than what we can read at an 8th grade reading level.

These silent and oral reading rates can be used as a guideline when discerning appropriate reading rates for students. Adjustments to these reading rates could be made to accommodate English Language Learners and students with reading difficulties. 

Anderson, N. J. (2008). Practical English language teaching: Reading. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hasbrouck, J., & Tindal, G. A. (2006). Oral reading fluency norms: A valuable assessment tool for teaching teachers. The Reading Teacher, 59, 636-644.

See also my post about a free online speed reading tool here.

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