Tip of the Week: How to Identify your Child’s Reading Speed

Educators talk about three levels of reading. On one end of the continuum is the independent level. Children reading books at this level read them independently. They don’t need any help. They are books your children willingly pick up to read because they don’t require a lot of effort and are usually a source of enjoyment.

On the other end of the continuum is the frustration level. Here, the going is slow and tedious. Comprehension is limited due to mispronounced and misunderstood words.

In between these two levels is the instructional level. The reading is not so easy that you are merely observing your child read, and not so hard that you’re decoding every few words for him. The instructional level is where you want to be.

The following words per minute standard is based on reading orally at the independent level. These standards, identified by grade level, are recognized by most professional educators as the “industry standard.”

  • 1st grade: reads 40 words per minute
  • 2nd grade: reads 90-100 words per minute
  • 3rd grade: reads 110-120 words per minute
  • 4th grade: reads 115-140 words per minute
  • 5th grade: reads 125-150 words per minute
  • 6th, 7th, and 8th grade: reads 150+ words per minute

If you’re wondering if a reading text is a good choice for your student, do a one-minute reading test using one or more pages from the book you’re considering.

To do this, you’ll need the following items:

  • A timer (use the stop watch on your phone or a digital cooking timer).
  • Two copies of one or more reading passages taken from the beginning, middle, and end of the book. One copy will be for the student, the other for the parent.
  • A pencil to mark reading errors on your copy of reading passage.

Here’s the process: start the timer to begin the one-minute reading test. The passage should be read orally. If your child has trouble, (struggling for more than 3 to 5 seconds), say the word so he can keep reading. After one minute, say “Stop,” and stop the timer. Circle the last word read.

During the reading, do not correct mistakes. Simply follow along word by word with your pencil. Put a slash (/) through any words your child misses.

Errors include:

  • Skipped words
  • Mispronounced words
  • Word substitutions, including incorrect forms of the word
  • Words in the wrong order; both or all words are counted as wrong
  • Struggling that lasts for 3 to 5 seconds or more

Do not count as wrong:

  • Added words
  • Varying pronunciation due to accent, dialect, or speech impediment
  • Repetitions in which the wording is correct
  • Words a student self-corrects.

Now, simply count the total number of words your child read. This is their words-per-minute reading rate. You can compare your student’s performance to the reading standards I’ve listed above. However, there are two more factors to consider before choosing a reader: reading accuracy and comprehension.

The next tip will explain how to quantify reading accuracy.

Thanks for reading!

Curt Bumcrot, MRE

Is your student struggling with comprehending a subject or staying on schedule? Basic Skills offers flexible tutoring for students with and without special needs. Regardless of your student’s situation, Basic Skills can help them progress academically. Click here to learn more.

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