Are Fast Readers are Good Readers? Not necessarily. Accurate readers who process what they read as they are reading are good readers. It can be important to measure word per minute speed but that number can be misleading.
Sometimes fast readers are just skipping over words. Sometimes fast readers read beautifully but have no idea what they are reading.
At The Reading Clinic, we meet so many kids who are struggling with reading and think that they need to read quickly in order to be a good reader. For some students, the fluency rate they are supposed to be reading at is simply out of reach because they are missing deeper fundamental skills. Often times, they are struggling with phonemic awareness, sounding words out, or remembering words once they’ve sounded them out. Focusing on speed encourages these kids to guess and mumble while reading, instead of taking the time they need to sound a word out. A focus on fluency can train a bad work ethic in a struggling reader. Our advice to parents of struggling readers is to ignore fluency measures and instead focus on building underlying skills. Ideally, once a student is reading accurately and without effort at the word level, they will be able to build up speed naturally and eventually hit grade level fluency measures.
The flip-side of this myth is that many speed readers are fast because they aren’t thinking while they read. If you have strong reading comprehension skills, try speed reading through a passage. Just push for speed and forget about content. Did you retain much of what you read? Did you make connections and learn anything? Probably not. The difference for kids with comprehension issues is that you can tell them to slow down, but slow down and do what? The piece these kids are missing has nothing to do with their ability to read. They have issues creating imagery from written text. Often times, they have exceptional comprehension when someone reads to them, which creates a lot of confusion for parents. Signs that your child might have a comprehension issue include a reluctance to stop reading books with pictures or graphic novels. They need the picture support to support their comprehension. Or they enjoy a movie production of a book more than the book itself. They may get straight A’s but don’t retain anything once their tests are over. Regardless of what form their comprehension issues take, reading fast is not helping them to understand what they read.
If you have concerns about your child’s reading rate or comprehension ability, The Reading Clinic can evaluate what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are.