Developing Fluent Readers: Teaching Fluency As A Foundational Skill, by Melanie R. Kuhn and Lorell Levy
Fluency has different meanings depending on what sort of skill one is talking about. Most of the time, I think of fluency with regards to foreign languages and it means being able to read and speak and listen to a language successfully while understanding it. With regards to common core standards for English, fluency is viewed as having an understanding to read material at an appropriate grade-level at a given speed. In reading this book I was struck by the lack of demanding nature of common core educators. It seems that elementary educators make no further demands of students than their own performance and fail to deal with the complexity of challenging students who are doing well in fluency while also trying to encourage readers who are not doing as well. The book seems to encourage higher achieving students to act in a way of teaching or modeling reading behavior for those who are less fluent, and even encourages those who are struggling with literacy to read books to younger readers that the younger readers might enjoy as a means of improving their own literacy in a way that would not embarrass them in front of their peers.
This book is a short one at about 100 pages, and the most helpful part of the book is the last part of the book, which provides a list of elementary reader-appropriate writings and award winning fiction, demonstrating the cultural decadence and identity politics that is an essential part of the common core approach. The book begins with a look at foundational skills and the support of open-ended learning and when this should happen and why (1). After this the author talks about fluent reading and what it is (2). This is followed by how one assesses fluent reading (3), and provides fluency instruction for any setting (4). This is followed by a discussion of fluency instruction for shared reading (5). This is followed by a look at fluency instruction for flexible groups, where one’s class has a wide gulf in terms of fluency or needs (6), as well as fluency instruction for individuals (7), and supplemental fluency instruction as it is necessary in the classroom (8). After this the book ends with recommended trade books for children by theme, award winning trade books, and “notable” trade books for children, as well as references and an index.
In reading this book, I must admit that common core doesn’t strike me as being a good way to look at reading. Now, I am rather predisposed not to appreciate Common Core at all, but this book doesn’t do anything to make it appear as if it is a worthwhile means of educating people in fluency. Most of what the books suggests indicates a desire to outsource a great deal of education and the responsibilities of self-education to the students themselves and also seems to want to slow down the development of high-level students for the benefit of the slow pokes in the class. Also, there is a distinct lack of specificity about what sort of reading level is expected for each age limit, even though fluency is defined in a relative sense based on age limit. Nor does it appear as if teachers have a great deal of flexibility in encouraging increased flexibility in increasing the fluency of higher-achieving students far above their grade level as a way of keeping the challenge up. Most of the attention is focused on trying to find ways of increasing the achievement of laggards rather than dealing with the struggle of higher achievers in not being bored by a lack of progress in the material, which appears to be a consistent problem in literature about education in general.