Oral Fluency & Its Relationship to Reading Comprehension

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

Oral reading fluency is an important element of reading comprehension. This lesson will explore that connection for teachers seeking to improve oral fluency with their students.

What Is Oral Fluency

Oral fluency is a term in the teaching of reading that refers to how smoothly and quickly a reader can read connected material aloud. Oral fluency also includes how much expression the reader has in reading the passage. This measure of pitch, stress, and timing is also called prosody.

Assessing oral fluency can provide information about a child's reading level, but is not a sufficient measurement of reading comprehension.


Early readers begin with decoding written material using previous information acquired about the sounds of letters and letter combinations. Sight words learned by consistent repetition and recognition also play a part in the initial stages of reading for comprehension. Sight words are words that appear with regularity in early reading materials. Some examples include the, see, and we.

Learning to recognize sight words is important
recognizing familiar words

Unfortunately, neither decoding ability nor oral fluency alone constitute the ability to read rapidly and with comprehension and recall of written information. Oral fluency contributes to reading comprehension, but is not the complete picture.

How Oral Fluency Works in Reading Comprehension

In order to make material sound smooth and flowing when read aloud, the reader must have moved beyond decoding individual words. Familiarity with the how the language sounds and the syntax of common sentences plays a large role. If the reader already speaks the language, especially from infancy, and learned to speak and recognize words and phrases and their meanings in this same language, learning to read is a much easier proposition. Familiarity leads to an appropriate rate of speed and accuracy in pronunciation.

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