Q:

My second-grader can recognize most of the words in the stories he brings home; however, he reads slowly and without any expression. It is close to torture to listen to his choppy reading. The teacher tells us to have him practice reading the same material over and over, and he will improve. So far, this has not happened. What else can we do to help him read faster with at least some expression? -- Eager to Help

A:

Right now, there is a major focus on children becoming fluent readers able to read material quickly, accurately and with expression. Of course, there are children who do not read fluently because they aren't very proficient at recognizing words and need more training in this area. At the same time, there are others like your son who can recognize words but can't read them smoothly in sentences. Both types of students can become more fluent readers with appropriate training. And becoming a more fluent reader has the added dividend of improving comprehension.

Just rereading material silently is not going to turn your son into a fluent reader. What he needs to do is to read the same material aloud several times and receive guidance from you as well as his teacher at school.

Don't have him dive into material and attempt to read it. Instead, always model how a passage should be read so he'll know what a fluent reader sounds like. At times, you can follow the text with your finger so he can see where you pause and where you raise and lower your voice. You can also help by pointing out words in a story that go together such as "Little Red Riding Hood" or "The Three Little Pigs." Also, talk about how your voice changes to show different emotions.

After you have read a passage to your child one or more times, he can read it back to you, read it with you or alternate reading sections of it with you. Try reading plays too, as the roles need to be read with expression. Be sure to vary your approach. Reading a short passage four times is usually sufficient to help most young children read it fluently.