Whenever I’m grappling with a difficult question, I remember the wise words of my favorite teacher. “Maybe this is not an either/or situation,” she once told me. “Maybe it’s a both, and.” In a world that often urges us to take sides and to feel only one way about something, it can be helpful to remember that a productive way forward frequently lies somewhere in the both, and. This wisdom can be applied to many situations, including… yes… effective reading intervention.

As you know, the current reading debate focus mainly on the question of whether or not we must explicitly teach phonics. Scientific evidence confirms that we should, but this doesn’t mean explicit phonics instruction is the only thing reading teachers should focus on. Scientific study affirms a comprehensive approach to reading instruction, one that emphasizes the key components of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Phonics instruction is highly important, but this alone is not sufficient.

Renowned literacy expert Tim Shanahan recently wrote a blog post on this topic entitled Wake Up Reading Wars Combatants: Fluency Instruction is Part of the Science of Reading. Specifically, Shanahan asserts that oral reading fluency instruction is a critical component of reading instruction, which, unfortunately, tends to get overlooked in the maelstrom of the phonics debate. 

“I chaired the NRP [National Reading Panel] sub-panel that reviewed the research on fluency teaching, and our summary of that research concluded that such teaching was beneficial to reading development by a wide range of measures,” Shanahan states. “Kids who received fluency instruction simply read better than those who did not.”

He goes on to cite many studies that confirm the benefits of oral reading fluency instruction. These studies show that teaching oral reading fluency helps students:

  • Develop the concept of how speech maps onto print.
  • Learn to decode.
  • Build automaticity.
  • Develop prosody.
  • Build comprehension.

Shanahan concludes that the reason he supports fluency instruction is because persuasive studies show that it enhances reading achievement—which is “the only reason any instructional routine should be adopted.”

We at Read Naturally appreciate Shanahan’s reminder that evidence finds fluency instruction is also highly beneficial to developing readers and should not be overlooked amid the important emphasis on explicit, systematic phonics instruction. We believe in a comprehensive approach to reading instruction, which is why we offer several research-based programs to develop and support all five components of reading as identified by the National Reading Panel. Numerous studies confirm that the Read Naturally Strategy, which places a strong emphasis on oral reading fluency, is proven to build overall reading proficiency.

Our most popular program, Read Naturally Live, is heralded by countless reading instructors as a highly effective way to build fluency while simultaneously developing phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension. Additionally, please read about our supports for effective phonics instruction in these blog posts:

In support of your efforts to address both phonics and fluency (and the other important components of effective reading instruction), we encourage you to explore all that we have to offer. We love working with all kinds of educators in the “both, and” that paves the way toward literacy. If this resonates with you, please get in touch to learn more about our research-based approach.