Dr. 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:
- reading fluency increases as students learn to decode words; and
- 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.
So what constitutes an "appropriate rate"? During the presentation, Anderson referenced national averages for optimal silent and oral reading rates by grade level (Reference for oral reading rates: 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]
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.
To improve reading rates in your school(s), check out our online reading workshop. It's an informative tool and it's free for educators!
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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.