Understanding Reading Rates for Reading Fluency

The focus of this blog is on reading fluency. Reading fluency is the ability to quickly recognize words during the process of reading. It has to do with speed of processing or reading rate. The ability to automatically recognize words frees up space in short term memory for comprehension.

You can find norm-referenced oral reading rates that use terms such as recommended, expected, optimal, appropriate, accepted, and even normal to assign reading rates for each grade level. However, these sorts of grade level comparisons should be given limited attention. This is because we read different texts for different purposes and different rates.

Reading rates (as well as word identification and comprehension scores) are highly dependent on the texts being read, students’ current knowledge of the content, their word knowledge related to the content, and their interest in the content. As well, good reading is not fast reading. There are times when we want students to slow down and use skills and strategies related to effective comprehension so that they can carefully process and understand the information being described. There are other times (like when reading for pleasure) when it is appropriate to use the least amount of information possible to create an enjoyable reading experience.

This is not to discount norm-referenced reading rates as they are of some value. They provide a very general sense of the development of students’ oral reading fluency. However, students’ WPM rates should always be considered in the context of qualitative data that describes the type of material being read, nonverbal behaviors, and reading prosody. A glaring misuse of WPM rates is to expect all students to be reading at a specific norm-referenced WPM rate by the end of a school year. An appropriate use of WPM rates is to use them to identify students’ reading rate for baseline data. Goals and benchmarks would then be designed based on this original WPM score.

Readocity can help you identify your student's reading rates and use it towards improving your student's fluency. Find out more at