Vocabulary. Vocabulary knowledge—specifically, the depth, breadth, and flexibility of a person’s knowledge about words—is a primary predictor of reading success. Vocabulary development can be aided if instructors select words and teach their meanings before asking learners to read text containing these words.

Effective instruction focuses on teaching the multiple meanings of words and varied word forms; it also provides ample opportunities to encounter and use words in varied contexts. Vocabulary knowledge is not a simple dichotomy of knowing or not knowing a word’s meaning. Rather, learners’ knowledge develops on a continuum that ranges from not knowing a word at all, to recognizing it, to knowing its uses in different contexts—a pattern of gradual growth that is seldom reflected in vocabulary tests. Because vocabulary tends to grow with reading experience, adults need practice reading a wide range of content, including texts related to their education, work, or other specific learning goals.


Learners often need to concentrate on developing vocabulary for succeeding in academic subjects or understanding other specialized material. Because this specialized vocabulary is not part of everyday spoken language, it is important to integrate the explicit teaching of words and phrases with opportunities to use new words in classroom discussion or writing assignments to improve both vocabulary and reading comprehension. Drawing on learners’ existing knowledge can help; teachers of adolescents have used language and concepts drawn from students’ lives as a bridge to support deeper understanding of academic language.

Fluency. Reading fluency is the ability to read with speed and accuracy. Developing fluency is important because the human mind is limited in its capacity to carry out many cognitive processes at once. When word and sentence reading are automatic and fluent, readers can concentrate more fully on understanding and connecting sentences and paragraphs, which enables them to create meaning from the text. For all readers, even proficient ones, fluency is affected by the complexity of the text and the reader’s familiarity with its structure. Experiments with young children show that fluency instruction can lead to significant gains in both fluency and comprehension. However, the relationship between fluency and comprehension is more complex than previously

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