Why Reading Speed is Important
Why is reading speed important? People often assume that students who are slow readers have difficulty remembering the sounds that alphabet symbols make or that they have difficulty sounding out words. While this may appear logical, it is not always true. There are students who have these skills but continue to be slow readers. They can sound out most words but are painfully slow when reading. They do not read with expression and frequently do not remember sight words. By the time they get to the end of the passage, they cannot remember any of the content.
Students are proficient at reading when they can read text quickly and accurately. They pay attention to punctuation and read with expression, enhancing the understandability of the text. They are able to read and understand text at the same time.
There is a close relationship between proficient reading, amount read, and the ability to understand the text. Reading progress is largely dependent on how much a student reads. Students who read more will read faster and understand more.
Reading Speed Affects Slow Readers
Slow inefficient readers read fewer words per minute. Thus, they must read many more hours just to keep up with their peers in school. Unlike proficient readers, they cannot read and comprehend text at the same time, so they must often reread the same text one or more times, further adding to the time needed to read the same amount of text as peers. Inefficient readers are often referred for reading intervention by middle or later elementary grades. This is because the amount of text information they must read for a test or to complete a project increases significantly in these grades.
As a result, proficient readers read more and thus continue to improve, both in reading speed and academic performance. Struggling readers become frustrated and avoid reading, leading to slower reading speed, difficulty with comprehension of text, and subsequently, poorer grades.
It is crucial that we identify students who struggle with reading in the earlier grades. By third or fourth grade, the focus is no longer on teaching students to read. Kids must read to learn. To do so, they must read textual material quickly and smoothly, i.e., they must read at an automatic level. Early identification of this decreased automaticity will allow for early and effective reading intervention.
Check out Early Literacy: Reading, Writing, Learning for tips on how to build a good foundation for your child’s future reading!