Reading Rates in Elementary School

Question: One of my children seems to read very slowly. The other just dashes through books and textbooks. What are the typical reading rates for children in third and seventh grade? -- Rate Minded

Answer: You would think that this is a very simple question to answer. Instead, it is a rather complicated question. Children read at different rates when they read silently or orally. Their rates also vary depending on the types of reading that they are doing. Plus, it depends on whether they are reading material that is on their independent reading level.

What you want is for your children to read at an appropriate rate with adequate comprehension. Reading fast is great provided children also understand what they have read. Remember, children are not good readers unless they understand what they have read.

Many studies have been made of what constitutes an appropriate rate for different grade levels. Most are within a similar range. You can find very detailed oral reading data for grades 1-8 by going to and searching for "oral reading fluency" to see what the expected rates are for children in the fall, winter and spring of each year.

Dr. Neil J. Anderson, a professor at Brigham Young University, has shared this information about silent reading. An appropriate silent reading rate for a third-grader is 138 words per minute. The rate for a seventh-grader is 195 words per minute.

You can determine what your children's actual reading rate is by dividing the number of words read by the time in seconds and multiplying this number by 60 to get the words read per minute. If you do this, don't jump to any immediate conclusions about their reading rate before having your children read different materials such as their textbooks and readers and works of fiction. Then you should talk about what they have read to be sure that they understand what they have read.