What is the Average Reading Rate for a Grade Schooler?

What is the Average Reading Rate for a Grade Schooler, and How They Can Improve Their Speed


There’s no sugar coating it, learning to read is hard. All the grammar, vocabulary, and spelling required to put a piece of text together and understand it is enough to make any grade schooler’s head spin. Once they get the hang of it, the next step is to increase the rate at which they read. Why? Let’s dive in and see how reading speed plays a role in a child’s development and how to measure it.

There are three dimensions of assessing reading fluency. The first dimension, accuracy in word decoding, measures the rate at which a child can accurately sound out words in a text. Having the child read aloud can give you a better idea of how quickly they can decode words. Pay attention to pauses that they make or if they are reading one word at a time. Reading one word at a time is an indication that they are not extracting the information as well as someone who is reading at the average rate. 

The second dimension of assessing a child’s reading fluency is automatic processing. This refers to how much mental effort did it take for the child to decode the text so they can understand it. Ideally, you want the reader to take as little effort as possible to do so. The goal is that you want the child to use the majority of their energy comprehending the text, rather than trying to figure it out little by little.

Lastly, prosodic reading refers to having a student read a grade-level text and assess them on the following; expression and volume, phrasing, smoothness, and pace. This is also known as the multidimensional fluency scale. To find out how a child did, grade each category on a scale of one to four, one being the lowest and four being the best. For example, if a child is reading slow and laboriously, they would get a one. If the pace at which a child reads is in between fast and slow, that would be a three. Add everything up, and you’ll get an idea for how well they are doing. Note that a score of eight or lower is an indication that a child’s reading fluency needs improvement.

Concerning how many words per minute a child should read, comes from a 1965 study by Stanford E. Taylor. In his research published in the American Educational Research Journal, he came up with the following reading rates by looking at eye movement filmed by an EDL Reading Eye Camera.

Grade 8:          204

Grade 7:          195

Grade 6:          185

Grade 5:          173

Grade 4:          158

Grade 3:         138

Grade 2:          115

Taylor’s study gives an excellent baseline to measure students and their reading skills. Another reason for students reading too slowly or too quickly is based on the subject material and the text’s vocabulary. Taylor concludes, “Material that contains difficult or unusual vocabulary and concepts can cause the reader to interrupt his reading to reread, stare, or ponder. At the other extreme, when the content is so simple that it departs significantly from familiar linguistic patterns, variations may also occur.” It is essential when teaching children how to read, to make sure that they can grasp on to the subject they are reading and that it is properly-suited for their age.

Reading is a fun activity that everyone should enjoy throughout grade school. But when a child dislikes reading, is uninterested in the text, or it becomes too tough, and they get discouraged, it can hurt the rate at which they read. Get a jump on things early and make reading a fun activity when they are young. Getting them excited about books at an early age plays a role when it comes to their reading rate later on in their schooling years. 

If they’re still struggling with the rate at which they read, we have a wealth of information on the site that you can break down so a child can learn to read quicker.

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