Building Reading Fluency in Dyslexic Readers

by | Jan 15, 2015 | Teaching Tips | 8 comments

Reading fluency is difficult for the dyslexic reader to attain because they are generally spending most of their brain power trying to decode the words on the page. Let’s take a look at how we can build fluency in dyslexic readers. 

Thanking you for joining us here for day 5 of our 5-day series on How to Teach Kids With Dyslexia to Read.  Read the entire series from the beginning by clicking here.

Today we’re talking about how to build fluency in dyslexic readers.

Building Fluency in Dyslexic Readers-Reading fluency is difficult for the dyslexic reader to attain because they are generally spending most of their brain power trying to decode the words on the page.

If you have been teaching a struggling reader how to read for long, you understand how elusive this ability can be.

Fluency is defined as “the ability to read connected text rapidly, smoothly, effortlessly, and automatically with little conscious attention to the mechanics of reading, such as decoding”.

The reason why fluency is so difficult for the dyslexic reader to attain is because they are generally spending  most of their brain power trying to decode the words on the page.

In order for an individual to be proficient with reading he first must be able to read a word correctly, then he can read it fluently. Fluency develops gradually over time and through substantial practice.

Being able to read fluently usually emerges by the middle of second grade.  For a person with dyslexia, this can be much later even well into the teen or adult years or not at all.

Automatic and effortless reading is attainable for the dyslexic reader.

General Methods for Strengthening Fluency

The interventions that we use with our kids with dyslexia need to be systematic and intense. Intensity will provide the student with more exposure to print and therefore, increased opportunities to practice reading words.

We have long held that while our kids can listen to audio books at their intellectual level just about as much as they like (we have actually had to limit audio book consumption at times because they LOVE them so much, they’ll listen all day long at times).

While listening to books is critical for our kids who have difficulties reading – to build vocabulary and a solid sense of grammar, our kids must read every day. Even if they are 10 years old and reading at a 2nd grade level, they must read what they can every day.

Continue to build their knowledge of phonetic principles with research-based reading curricula such as All About Reading, Reading Horizons, Barton or Logic of English.

Practice and repetition have been shown to increase fluency. Even for short periods (even minutes) every day. Remember to practice at a level that the student is already able to decode easily. The student should feel confident and comfortable with the text selected.

Focused Methods for Strengthening Fluency

Repeated Oral Reading

Repeated reading means that students read the same reading passages or texts repeatedly until a desired level of reading fluency is achieved.  Watch this short YouTube Video for a demonstration.

Paired Reading

In paired reading a capable reader and a struggling reader read in unison. The struggling reader indicates when they are ready to try reading alone. If the student makes an error, the capable reader provides the correct word. The pair then reads the sentence with that word in unison and continues reading. Different from repeated reading, Topping and Whitley (1987, 1990) found that paired reading can significantly improve reading fluency.

Choral Reading

Choral reading (where groups of children read the same text aloud in unison) is one of our favorite reading fluency strategies.

Echo Reading

Echo reading is another favorite of ours because it allows kids to practice proper phrasing and expression while building oral reading fluency. In echo reading, the parent reads one sentence or paragraph (length can vary) at a time while the student follows along in the text with their finger. Once the adult pauses, the student echoes back the same sentence or paragraph following along with their finger so that you can be sure the student is actually reading and not simply copying you. The guided practice and support of the echo reading structure instills confidence in students aiming to develop greater reading proficiencies.

Fluency Phrases

Another fun and easy reading fluency activity is practicing with short phrases.  Repeated reading of phrases gives students practice reading both decodable words and sight words with fluency. The short phrases may be written or typed on sentence strips. Use words that your child is currently mastering in his or her reading instruction.

Increased fluency results in increased comprehension as well as increased reading enjoyment.  Remember, it doesn’t take much time each day to practice fluency exercises and the payoff is guaranteed!

I hope you have enjoyed and learned from this series.  It is my goal here at Homeschooling With Dyslexia to educate and encourage families with dyslexia.

Learn More About Building Fluency & Comprehension



Course Four:  Building Fluency and Comprehension
Research is clear that when students with dyslexia receive explicit instruction with methods that work, they can learn to read and write and spell.

However, for some dyslexics, fluency is never reached, a fate that negatively affects them in many ways.

In this class you will learn:

  • what reading fluency is and how it develops
  • how fluency affects comprehension
  • nine of the most effective, research-based methods for increasing reading fluency
  • easy-to-implement methods to enhance your child’s reading comprehension at home
  • plus links to resources to help you implement these strategies in your home

Visit our Dyslexia Parent Course page for more info and purchase options.

Stay in Touch

We have quite an active Facebook community where I frequently post articles of interest and encouragement.  I also have a growing Pinterest Page with a wide variety of teaching tips for all subjects.

You can also subscribe to receive blog updates via email below.

Join our newsletter

Subscribe to get our latest content by email.

We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.



  1. Jules

    I love this post with all of the fluency help! The one thing I disagree on is audiobooks. Research shows they actually do help with vocabulary and grammar, so they are amazing in every sense! And, actually, listening while watching the words highlight help with fluency as well (the child hears the proper cadence). Love your tips though! And yes, kids do need to eye read every single day in addition to any ear reading they do, I agree.

    • marianne

      Hi Jules. I do think that audio books are good and the Kindle Immersion option is excellent for building fluency. I only meant that sometimes our kids don’t want to stop listening to their audiobooks! 🙂

  2. Kate Hall

    Marianne, do you have a list of suggested reading for various grade levels? My son is working on Level 2 of All About Reading and Level 1 of All About Spelling. He’s fourth grade. I’m looking for something beyond the fluency sheets (we’d love books, specifically) to help him with fluency.

  3. Joe

    Another, simple way for parents to help their children build fluency is to make sure subtitles and closed captioning are always turned on. A 5-year study in India found that children who watched one show a week with same language subtitles were twice as likely to be good readers and half as likely to be illiterate as children who did not watch the show with same language subtitles. The same study (and others) have found the use of closed captioning to be effective with children with learning disabilities. I have more about how CC can help build fluency on my blog:

  4. Kasia

    These seem like a lot of good strategies. My question is: how do the students respond to this repetition and reading the same page or passage over and over? I get that each word frequently seems new and takes as much effort the fifth time as it did the first time… But I feel like my kids would hate the repetition, or see it was a punishment for not doing it well enough the first time. It’s already their most difficult and least favorite subject.

    • Jewel

      I have homeschooled all four of my children, three of which struggled with reading. My son (now 13) was officially diagnosed with dyslexia but it runs in the family so I’m sure the others have varying degrees. I used two Orton Gillingham inspired reading programs before being trained as an OG tutor. I initially shared your apprehension about forcing my kids to read the same things over and over again. My son really bucked against reading the same sentences in the Barton program but after I received the training and was no longer relying on a “canned program” it opened a whole new world to me and we began using a variety of methods including: 1) the same word list for one week which we timed and he would try to beat his previous accuracy and time, 2) the same story per week that he got to choose out of a “controlled” reader, 3) a fun game I duplicated from the internet called “Roll and Read” with 6 different sentences with an assigned dice number to each. Student rolls the dice and reads the corresponding sentence until they have read each sentence 3-5 times. He found this less intimidating than reading a whole block of print. My point is use LOTS OF VARIETY and make it fun and they will not realize how much they are reading. If you reward them for pushing through the initial drudgery of it, they will find which methods they enjoy the most and even request to use them! May God grant you wisdom as you find what works best for your kids.

  5. Sonia

    Marianne, My 8 year old, going into 3rd in the fall, is a struggling reader. We have not taken her for a diagnosis, but she has many of the dyslexia issues. We use AAS and AAR, as well as reading books.

    My questions:
    1) would a computer -based program be of help? I know of MaxScholar, and wanted to see if it could help. Have you ever used the computer to help? I have heard it is beneficial, but unsure.
    2) how did you become OG certified?

    We use AAR and AAS, which help, but memory is an issue.

    Thank you,

    • Marianne

      Hi, Sonia! I think at 8-years-old kids do better with one-on-one, face-to-face teaching. AAR and AAS are good and yes, all kids with dyslexia have trouble with short term and working memory. She is still quite young. Keep working with her as often as possible.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *