Word recognition rests on one side. We want to decrease the number of times children have to stop and sound out words while reading. Comprehension waits on the other side. We want to increase the number of times children draw conclusions, make predictions, generate questions, and all of the other comprehension tasks good readers do.
In the middle, stands what some researchers call “the fluency bridge.” Without a doubt, many children struggle to cross that bridge independently while reading.
Why? Let’s consider a manageable definition of reading fluency to answer that: R. A. P.
Rate: reading speed
Accuracy: word recognition and automatic decoding
Prosody: rhythm and expression
Whether you are reading aloud or reading silently, these three elements link the words you read to the meaning of the text. But you need all three to be a fluent reader. Unfortunately, some schools only assess the first two elements: rate and accuracy. Many of their kids think that the goal of reading is speed. When some of these “speed readers” are asked to discuss what they read, they get stuck. Stuck in the middle of the fluency bridge.
Without prosody, students struggle to comprehend the text. Fluent readers, on the other hand, watch punctuation to signal pauses and complete stops, read in phrases instead of word-by-word, and adjust intonation to ultimately impact comprehension. As you can imagine, prosody takes more time to assess and teach, but the payoff is a stronger bridge to comprehension. And that’s something to “rap” about.