2021 Update: Reading Fluency

Editor: Dr. Russel Lazarus, Published April 19, 2021

80 percent of classroom learning is visual, meaning that any problems in the visual system can impact a child’s reading fluency.

If a child has any type of visual dysfunction it could prevent them from achieving academic success and affect their reading fluency.

These children are often bright and intelligent, but somehow their reading is still below grade level.

If your child is not reading to their potential contact an eye doctor near you, as they may have an undetected visual problem, which might require reading glasses or vision therapy..

What is reading fluency?

Reading fluency is the ability to read accurately, smoothly and with expression. Fluent readers recognize words automatically, without struggling over decoding issues. As they read, the words sound natural, as if they’re speaking.

Fluency is an essential classroom skill as it bridges the child’s word recognition to their comprehension. 

It allows students time to focus on what the text is saying and enables them to make connections between what they are reading and their own background knowledge. They are able to concentrate on comprehension.

Non-fluent readers sound choppy and read slowly. They spend more time decoding, leaving less time and energy for comprehension. They often have to read the same passage several times to comprehend what they are reading.

Reading fluency and vision

Reading fluency is dependent on the strength of visual skills such as accommodation, binocular vision, convergence, saccades, and visual fixation. Many children benefit with reading glasses, while others require a program of vision therapy to improve their visual efficiency skills.

A deficiency in any of these vital visual skills can result in reading difficulties, which can  impact a child’s ability to learn.

Which visual skills are necessary for reading?

  • Accommodation – the eyes’ ability to switch focus between two distances while maintaining clear vision.
  • Binocular fusion – the brain’s ability to form a single image using the distinct visual information it receives from each eye.
  • Convergence – the eyes’ ability to maintain a single image by simultaneously turning inward to focus on a near object, such as a book or computer screen.
  • Saccades – rapid eye movements between two or more focus points, such as when the eyes move from one word to the next when reading a sentence across a page.
  • Visual fixation – the eye’s ability to accurately focus on a target image, such as a word on a page.

Could my child have a vision problem?

It can be difficult to identify a vision problem in a child, as they may not be able to verbally express themselves or know that they have a vision problem, such as visual efficiency problems.

Common signs of a vision problem may include:

  • Behavioral problems
  • Covering one eye
  • Excessive fidgeting
  • Frequent blinking
  • Limited attention span
  • Reading avoidance
  • Reading below school grade level
  • Reading comprehension difficulties
  • School avoidance
  • Tilting head to one side

If your child is displaying signs of a visual impairment, it is important to visit an eye doctor near you for a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s vision and visual skills.

Can vision therapy help?

Vision is a learned skill that can be trained and strengthened, vision therapy is a program to develop the visual skills.

If a vision problem is at the root of your child’s reading difficulty, a vision therapy program can help.

A vision therapy program may help to improve your child’s visual skills and provide them with the necessary tools to succeed in reading and learning, and enjoy a lifetime of success.

Each vision therapy program is created to the individual needs of each child, and may include specialized lenses, prisms, filters, and eye exercises to help retrain the eye-brain connections and improve vision.

If you think a vision problem may be affecting your child’s reading success, schedule an evaluation with a vision therapy eye doctor who can help strengthen their visual skills to improve reading fluency.