Signs of Reading Fluency Problems

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As teachers, we concern ourselves with students' reading skills, including decoding, fluency, and comprehension. This lesson focuses on fluency and offers some ideas for identifying signs of fluency struggles.

Why Fluency Matters

If you are trying to help struggling readers grow, chances are you focus on two of the primary reading skills:

  • Decoding - the aspect of reading that deals with sounding out the words on the page
  • Comprehension - the ability to understand what you read

Sometimes it can be easy to overlook another important reading skill: fluency, or the capacity to read quickly and with expression. Yet when readers are dysfluent, or lacking in fluency, it can have a significant impact on their comprehension, their ability to keep up with their peers, and their enjoyment of reading.

This lesson offers an overview of common signs of fluency problems. By pinpointing these problems, you can begin addressing them with your students.


One of the hallmarks of a fluent reader is speed. Speed can be a complicated issue to assess, because of course everyone reads at different rates. Furthermore, reading too fast is usually undesirable, as it can lead to needless errors or a lack of attention to meaning.

At the same time, however, if readers are too slow, they will not be able to keep up with their classmates and they will not find reading fun. Therefore, when you are looking for signs of fluency problems, the first thing you might want to assess is speed. Some questions to ask yourself about a student are:

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