Prioritizing Fluency: A Fresh Approach to Literacy

SARA’s Books
2 min readMay 25, 2023

We’ve taken a different approach to literacy education. Our focus is on promoting fluency first, instead of starting with alphabetic-coding skills. Here’s why:

When students can read words and sentences fluently, they can concentrate on understanding the story or information presented, rather than laboring over individual words. Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. It’s a fundamental skill that opens the door to reading comprehension and reading enjoyment.

The Challenges of an Alphabetic-Code Approach

While phonemic recoding, or decoding, is an important part of literacy education, it’s not the only path to fluency. In fact, it can be a significant barrier to fluent reading. It’s a mentally demanding task that can slow down reading and make it less enjoyable. Additionally, the imprecise nature of phonics, where letters often represent different sounds in different words, can lead to confusion and frustration.

Building Confidence with Fluency-First

By focusing on fluency first, we help students build confidence and joy in reading right from the start. Our Engaged Aided Reading (EAR) practice uses cognitive aids to help with unfamiliar words, allowing students to easily transition disfluency into fluency. This approach is informed by the latest generation of neuroscience research, which reveals that reading involves automatic recognition of words, not practiced phonemic recoding and not cueing or guessing at words. As students gain word-specific fluency in thousands of words they naturally begin to recognize orthographic patterns and infer simple decoding skills, providing the scaffolding to support explicit phonics instruction.

Embracing the Balance

At SARA’s Books, we believe in the importance of a balanced approach to reading instruction while focusing on evidence of efficacy. Alphabetic-coding skills are undoubtedly crucial, and they will be integrated into the learning process as the student’s sight word vocabulary grows. However, our fluency-first strategy offers a more motivating and rewarding start to the literacy journey, fostering a love of reading that will last a lifetime.

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