Fluent Reading Opens the Door to Comprehension (page 2)
Fluency and comprehension are related and interact (Chard, Pikulski, & McDonagh, 2006). Although the exact extent and nature of this interaction is not well understood, there is reason to believe that comprehension informs fluency at some level. Similarly, fluency affects comprehension by making it possible for the reader to pay attention to meaning. Fluent readers learn more with less effort, read more text, complete homework in less time, and have higher achievement than nonfluent readers (Joshi, 2005).
Nonfluent readers miss information that fluent readers grasp. Missing information is less problematic when the text is a good match for readers’ life experiences, more problematic when text introduces unfamiliar ideas and concepts. By and large, text for first and second graders does not stray far from children’s background knowledge. Even though nonfluent readers in these grades miss information, some children still have good comprehension. These children understand text because they use their background knowledge to fill in the gaps in information. As children move into the third and fourth grades the text begins to introduce new ideas, information, and concepts. Nonfluent readers who got by in first and second grade begin to struggle with reading in the third grade. By the fourth grade most nonfluent readers have fallen far behind their classmates.
Fluent readers have high standards for comprehension. They monitor their own reading to keep track of meaning. When comprehension breaks down, they use fix-up strategies to pick up the thread of meaning. Fluent readers multitask. They recognize words, note punctuation, regulate reading pace, group words into phrases, change voice tone to match meaning, and comprehend text at nearly the same time. Fluent readers can multitask because they carry out the processes that support fluency automatically without conscious awareness. Consequently, fluent readers spend their mental resources on thinking about meaning and connecting with the text.
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