Q:

When I hear my child in fifth grade read aloud, she hesitates a lot, backtracks and reads slowly. Fortunately, the teacher does not call on her often, so she is not embarrassed by her stumbling reading. Are there any easy ways to help her? -- Want to Help

A:

Your child's reading problem is one that the educators call "fluency." The National Reading Panel has defined fluency as "reading text with speed, accuracy and proper expression." A child who is a fluent reader can read most words automatically.

Fortunately, with your help and a lot of practice, your daughter should be able to become a fluent reader, unless she has a serious reading disability. She needs to learn how to phrase what she is reading correctly, to read at a conversational rate and to use the proper expression. According to Hasbrouck-Tindal's Oral Reading Fluency Data, a reader in the fall who is in the 50th percentile of reading in fifth grade will read approximately 110 words per minute. The readers in the 90th percentile will read as many as 166 words per minute.

Here is a short list of things that you can do to help her. It will take time to see improvement. Daily practice is essential.

1. Read aloud every day to your child so she knows what good reading should sound like.

2. Read a paragraph several times and then have her read the passage as you make your way through a book.

3. Read aloud together. Sit closely together and read into her ear.

4. Have her read easy material that she can read quickly. Familiar nursery rhymes and stories are a good choice.

5. Visit DearTeacher.com, and you will find detailed explanations in Skill Builders/Reading of more ways to improve your child's oral reading.