Reading Speed

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Reading Speed

Post by Judy » Tue Dec 04, 2007 2:45 pm

Please can anybody tell me what reading (aloud) speed a 12 yr old should be aiming for.

I have tested myself on a fairly 'easy' passage and came out at 186 wpm, though it would have been much faster if I had not paused slightly at commas and full stops and read with some expression. On a passage with far more multisyllable words and longer sentences, my speed was 162.

So my second question is, when testing reading speed does one ask for expression etc or just for the pupil to go as fast as s/he can?

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Reading Speed

Post by JIM CURRAN » Tue Dec 04, 2007 10:30 pm

Judy, here's an article that you might find useful.

Reading Fluency Table
Reading fluency has two components. The first component is the accuracy and the second is speed.

Accuracy is the percentage of words that are correctly read. For instructional purposes, accuracy is often divided into three levels: independent, instructional, and frustration.

Independent level - 98% or greater words correctly identified

Instructional level - 90% - 97% words correctly identified

Frustration level - below 90% words correctly identified

For example, if a student reads a 100 word passage and correctly identifies 93 of the words, the student read 93% of the words correctly and is at the instructional level. Instructional level material is reading material that requires some support, instruction, or additional practice.

Instruction might include vocabulary or phonics work.

If a student is reading 98% or more of the words correctly the material is at the student's independent level. Independent level material requires NO support or instruction. At this level, students read for enjoyment.

If a student correctly identifies less than 90% of the words correctly the reading material is TOO DIFFICULT for the student. At this error rate, comprehension of the material reading speed is often affected.

Rate of reading or speed is the second fluency factor. Beginning readers read slowly with great deliberation and skilled readers read quickly with ease. Oral and silent reading speeds differ. Beginning readers read more quickly orally, but by 4th grade the average student begins to read more quickly silently. For the purpose of our project, we will, for the most part, address oral reading rates because our assessments involve oral reading. The following table states the MINIMUM reading rate per grade level. Before a student is moved to a HIGHER reading level, he or she should be reading 98% or greater of the words correctly AND have a reading speed that is equal or greater to the next grade level's rate.

Grade level
Minimum expected oral reading speed
Speed of oral reading to move to next grade level of material

70 + 98% or > CWM

90 + 98% or > CWM

120 + 98% or > CWM

150 + 98% or > CWM

> 150 WPM + 98% or > CWM

CWM-Correct Words Per Minute; WPM - Words per Minute

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Post by Judy » Wed Dec 05, 2007 12:01 am

Thank you very much indeed, Jim. That is just what I've spent every spare moment since Saturday trying to find - but failing!

One thing I am not sure about is whether the 'Grade Levels' refer to American grades, ie Grade 4 would be our Y5?

Trying to establish a rough and ready norm this afternoon, I asked a Y6 pupil whose reading age is above his chronological age (but his spelling needs to catch up!) to read a passage from a Y4 'comprehension' book. He read 152 wpm and made one small error due to carelessness because he knew I was timing him.

The Y7 pupil I am worried about read the same passage at a rate of 102 wpm and also made one error.

This is the same pupil I have mentioned as having appeared to get stuck at a Burt Reading Age of 9.10 when I tested her at the beginning of September. But I heard from her mother today that she has been tested in school and that her reading age is now only one month below her chronological age. I have no idea what test was used and I won't be testing her again until March but either the work we have been doing together is beginning to pay off - or the tests are unreliable!!! :???:

In the course of a great deal of googling to try and find out more about reading speeds, I came across the following article, which some may find of interest. ... pter2.html

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Post by Judy » Wed Dec 05, 2007 12:45 am

And here's another one - ... uency.html

This is all a new field for me so I'd be interested in any comments.

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Post by palisadesk » Thu Dec 06, 2007 8:13 pm

Here are some more links of interest: ... _norms.pdf

These data are from 2005 . They have been updated through 2007 but the article (in Reading Teacher) is one I can't access from home. This gives you some idea of the various reading rates over the elementary years. These are USA data, but I have found our own to be similar.

Here's a good short piece by Hasbrouck for the general reader:

A technical report with more involved information is here:

This article, on the concept of fluent performance generally, is outstanding and greatly influenced my own thinking on the topic:

I used to think that reading fluency would develop naturally, and indeed it often does. For "struggling readers" however, it often does not, and slow reading speed impacts the student's ability to complete assignments, to read for pleasure, and to understand complex texts, especially in the middle grades and up. Often these slower readers, even if they are accurate, cannot keep up with classroom tasks on a day-to-day basis. Many times I hear teachers and others just dismiss the issue with, "Well, s/he is just slow" as if we could do nothing about it, and I used to be of that school of thought myself. I was focused on accuracy and improving the student's reading level, not on speed or fluency. Now however I see it as all of a piece, and fluency is an issue from the beginning. Moreover, it is one that is susceptible to instructional intervention.

Last year and the year before, I timed our good and excellent readers in Grades 1-3 (6-8 year olds). In each grade, the top readers easily read unpractised, new material at that year level at a rate of 175-225 WCPM. They read with prosody and obvious understanding. They could discuss the material afterwards. They were not word calling or racing through the text. They made occasional transpositions, substitutions or other errors but their accuracy was 98% or better and some were 100%.

So, when I went from those students to ones I worked with who were accurate but read from 25-65 WCPM (for instance) I no longer felt satisfied, even if my students were 100% accurate. Although "repeated reading" is the strategy most often suggested, I have found this to have limited benefits for the truly challenged ones. I do have them do repeated readings -- usually of short texts which contain valuable material they need to learn, not merely "story" text. Thus they are adding to their knowledge as well as practicing their reading rate. However, I haven't found practising passage reading per se to greatly boost their reading rate.

What I found most valuable -- essential, actually -- was working on component skill fluency. Just what components varied among students, but typically it would be GPC's, both in isolation and in words, then in words which were mixed with non-examples of the GPC (for instance, if the student was working on "ai" for /ae/ s/he would first practice words with ai, then words with ai mixed with visually similar words NOT containing "ai" -- ran, brand, diary, etc.), phrases, sentences. These would be very short, focused practice sessions -- only minutes long. The student graphs results and sets a new goal each time. I found that in nearly every case where the student's passage reading was slow or dysfluent, he or she benefited hugely from practicing GPC's in isolation and then in words. While the most severely challenged students may never achieve a very fast reading rate (200+ WCPM) it is nearly always possible to double or even triple his or her current one. It excites the student to read faster and better, too, and nearly always improves comprehension and enjoyment.

Susan S.

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Post by palisadesk » Thu Dec 06, 2007 9:59 pm

Oops, forgot a site with many useful things:

There are two readibility calculators (see teacher tools) and numerous helpful articles and strategies on reading, written language and math skills as well as behavioural interventions.

Susan S.

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Post by Judy » Fri Dec 07, 2007 7:36 pm

Thank you so much, Susan! Very interesting articles which I shall print out to refer to; and the readabilty calculator certainly seems more accurate than the one on my pc!

I do already time all my pupils reading words containing the set of correspondences we have been working on before we move on to the next set but I think my 'pass' mark is too generous. I am now thinking that it would be good to time them on reading correspondences in isolation as well, when we run through them at the beginning of each lesson. Most of them love being timed and are very keen to beat their previous attempt but the Y7 girl has never liked this so I haven't pushed her too much. However, getting through her school homework is becoming a real problem now and presumably keeping up with any reading or writing in school will be difficult for her too.

A vicious circle has developed in that her school homework is such a burden to her that she is not very willing to do the homework I set her. But I am trying to persuade her and her parents that if we can get her reading (and writing) more fluent, her school work should take up less time and effort. But she does have two lessons a week and we use one of them for revising the correspondences and the other one for things that I hope will eventually lead to better 'comprehension'.

I am urgently needing to spend some time on Christmas preparations at the moment, and my pupils are all beginning to get very involved in their school plays and so on. But I will certainly try out your idea of working on visually similar words in the New Year. I think she will find this quite challenging as she often confuses words like 'that' and 'what' and doesn't always self-correct, even though what she is reading makes no sense. I have been working with her long enough now to know which graphemes she regularly confuses so that will be one of my jobs for the time in between Christmas and the New year!

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Post by Judy » Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:44 pm

Since I last wrote I have been checking all my pupils for fluency, keeping records of their improving speed with word-reading and passage-reading. They all really enjoy trying to beat their previous speed and most of them can read faster without losing accuracy than they thought they could.

But two of them, a Y5 and a Y6, can read a passage intended for about a year below their actual age with 100% accuracy, but as soon as they start to speed up, the accuracy flies out of the window. Their errors are not really decoding errors as such. They add words, miss out words (apparently according to what they expect the words to be) and read words in the wrong order. All the usual 'dyslexic' errors kick in - 'for' for 'from' etc.

I am not sure whether there is anything I can do about this but I am aware that they will need to speed up to cope with what is expected of them when they go to secondary school. It is frustrating because they can read the passages so easily at a slower speed but sometimes get in a complete muddle when they try to speed up. It seems to me that it has more to do with their tracking and eye movements than their code knowledge so I'd be grateful for any tips on how I can improve this. Or should I just accept that they will never read accurately and up to speed?

I don't know how relevant this is but the Y6 girl was taught to read entirely by whole word recognition and the Y5 boy has done 'Reading Recovery'.

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Post by Judy » Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:07 pm

Perhaps I should add that both of these pupils habitually do everything fast! They both enjoy reading independently so I feel fairly certain that they read fast and inaccurately when they read silently to themselves.

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Post by mtyler » Thu Jan 10, 2008 4:53 pm

Dear Judy,

Have you tested their comprehension at both speeds and accuracy levels? I was wondering if some of the error is an issue of oral reading--their mouths are making mistakes that their brains aren't. If their comprehension is as good at both speeds, whether they read correctly or not, then working on their oral reading speed may not be as important. Testing their silent reading comprehension-perhaps twice. once with an emphasis on accuracy and once on speed--may also shed light on the issue.

I have not read any articles that indicate the relationship among oral reading, silent reading, and comprehension. Perhaps others have some references. If oral reading speed is not related or only spuriously related to silent reading speed and comprehension, then it is not a good measure of what's happening.

Minnesota, USA

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