Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. Chapter 3: Fluency

NICHCY’s Structured Abstract 22 describes the following:

Title | Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. Chapter 3: Fluency

Author | National Reading Panel

Source | National Reading Panel, Bethesda, MD.  Reports of the Subgroups. Chapter 3: Fluency (NIH Publication No. 00-4754)

Year Published | 2000

This report presents the reports of the subgroups of the National Reading Panel, which was charged by Congress to assess the status of research-based knowledge, including the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching children to read. Each of the chapters 2 through 6 contains its own executive summary and appendices in addition to the report of the subgroup.

  • Chapter 1, Introduction and Methodology, discusses the processes applied to the selection, review, and analysis of research relevant to reading instruction.
  • Chapter 2, Alphabetics, contains sections on phonemic awareness instruction and phonics instruction.
  • Chapter 3 addresses reading fluency.
  • Chapter 4 addresses comprehension (containing sections on vocabulary instruction, text comprehension instruction, and teacher preparation and comprehension strategies instruction).
  • Chapter 5 presents the report of the subgroup on teacher education and reading instruction.
  • Chapter 6 addresses computer technology and reading instruction.

The report concludes with a minority view that argues the report of the panel neither responds to its charge nor meets the needs of America’s schools.

At the request of Congress, a national panel of experts in the field of reading was created in 1997, known as the National Reading Panel (NRP). The NRP held public hearings to help decide what topics would be addressed in its report to Congress on the state of reading research and instruction. The selected topics were: alphabetics (i.e., phonemic awareness instruction and phonics instruction); fluency; comprehension  (vocabulary instruction, text comprehension instruction, teacher preparation, and comprehension strategies instruction); teacher education as it relates to reading instruction; and computer technology and reading instruction. Each of these topics was addressed by a subgroup of the NRP and became a chapter in the final NRP report.

This NICHCY structured abstract covers the report’s chapter on fluency. Reading fluency requires well-developed word recognition skills, but such skills alone do not equal fluency. Fluency includes the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. The NRP considered two instructional approaches to teaching fluency:

  • guided repeated oral reading; and
  • recreational reading, sustained silent reading programs, and various other incentive programs.

Insufficient data existed to conduct a meta-analysis of the recreational reading programs, so this abstract will focus on guided repeated oral reading practice. Repeated oral reading practice techniques include repeated reading, neurological impress, radio reading, paired reading, assisted reading, and a variety of similar programs aimed at developing fluent reading habits.

Recent approaches to guided repeated oral reading require students to read and reread a text until they reach some level of proficiency and often include carefully designed feedback on performance. Instruction of this sort can be achieved by enlisting the use of tutors, working one-to-one with students, using audiotapes, or assigning students to peer groups.

Research Questions
Due to the lack of quality data on recreational reading programs mentioned above, this meta-analysis focused on answering the following question:
How effective is guided repeated oral reading instruction on reading fluency performance?

Research Design

  • Number of Studies Included
    • Total Fluency Studies: 92
    • Group experimental studies included in the meta-analysis on repeated oral reading instructional approaches: 14
  • Number of Subjects | 605
  • Years Spanned | 1970-96

Research Subjects
Participants were in grades 2 to 9. The students included in the study had an identified reading disability, were at risk of developing a reading problem, or were normally developing readers.

Age/Grade of Subjects
Students in 2nd to 9th grade.

Specified Disability
Reading Disabilities

Participants received instructional interventions that focused on guided repeated oral reading.

Duration of Intervention
Interventions lasted from 4 weeks to 1 ½ years. The average intervention length was under 10 weeks. On average, individual guided oral reading sessions lasted between 15-30 minutes.

Repeated guided oral reading procedures were found to be effective in improving reading fluency, word recognition, comprehension, and overall reading achievement for children at a variety of grade levels.

Combined Effects Size

  1. Overall, guided oral reading has a moderate impact upon reading achievement (average weighted effect size of 0.41).
  2. Guided oral reading had the largest effect on reading accuracy (mean effect size of 0.55); the next highest was on reading fluency (mean effect size of 0.44). The least, but still significant, impact was on reading comprehension (mean effect size of 0.35).

Guided repeated oral reading procedures are effective in improving reading fluency and overall reading achievement. This method of instruction also has a consistent and positive impact on word recognition, fluency, and comprehension as measured by various tests at a range of grade levels.

Strong readers often establish the majority of their fluency skills by 3rd or 4th grade and may not benefit from repeated oral reading procedures after the upper elementary school grades. However, repeated oral reading procedures can be useful in increasing fluency skills in readers who have a disability or who are at risk of a disability well beyond 4th grade.


* Meta-Analysis | A widely-used research method in which (1) a systematic and reproducible search strategy is used to find as many studies as possible that address a given topic; (2) clear criterion are presented for inclusion/exclusion of individual studies into a larger analysis; and (3) results of included studies are statistically combined to determine an overall effect (effect size) of one variable on another.

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