Optimal Silent & Oral Reading Rates By Grade Level

optimal reading ratesDr. 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 Dr. 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.

Listen to Dr. Anderson's one-hour webinar presentation, Developing Fluent Readers, and earn free PD credit! ›

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). Since I've talked to several people who were interested in having access to this information, I thought I would include the information in this blog post below:

Silent Reading Rates & Oral Reading Rates | Words Per Minute [WPM]

optimal reading rates

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.

Related Articles

What’s the Best Way to Pace Students’ Reading Instruction?

How to Get Started When Teaching Struggling Readers

Crucial Steps for Effectively Teaching Reading to Struggling Readers

4-Step Process for Helping Students Transfer Decoding Skills to Written Text

A Simple Strategy for Teaching Struggling Readers [Raised Passing Rates from 50% to 96%]


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.

differentiated reading instruction


  • Andrea W. Kotula, Ed.D.

    Hello, I'm not sure what Dr. Anderson actually presented, but Hasbrouck and Tindal's 2006 study only provided norms for oral reading, not silent reading--as noted in the title of the article you cite. Moreover, you've reproduced the spring norms at the 50th percentile, but the authors provide fall, winter and spring norms at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles. I'd love to know who developed the silent reading norms on your blog post. The only ones I've been able to find are decades old. Thanks.

  • heidi

    Dr. Kotula, Thank you for your comment. The spring norms were referenced (as opposed to fall and winter) because Dr. Anderson wanted to focus on what the reader at each specific grade level would be able to do by the end of the school year. In addition, he chose to reference the 50th percentile because he wanted to get readers right in the middle. I have checked with Dr. Anderson on the reference for silent reading norms and will pass that information along when I receive it. Thank you again for your inquiries and insight.

  • heidi

    Dr. Kotula, One more thought I failed to mention: To understand more of the context for what Dr. Anderson presented, you're welcome to visit this blog post: http://www.esltrail.com/2010/07/five-reasons-why-english-language.html

  • IGCSE Schools in Banglore

    I just wanted to inform you about how much my partner and i appreciate all you’ve discussed to help improve the lives of folks in this subject material. Through the articles, we have gone through just a newbie to a specialist in the area. It is truly a gratitude to your work. Thanks http://www.greenwoodhigh.edu.in/news_view.php?newsid=44

  • Kem

    I know someone asked this already, but I do not see a response posted... Do you have a citation/author for the silent reading rates? Thanks!

  • grady thomas

    What does the term "pulpit reading rate" mean? I have asked several times and places

Leave a comment

Jul 19 2010

Email Subscribe

Featured Posts

Blog Authors

back to top