Optimal Silent & Oral Reading Rates By Grade Level

by Angie Barnett | Jul 19, 2010

Optimal Silent & Oral Reading Rates By Grade Level

Dr. Neil J. Anderson, professor of Linguistics and English Language at Brigham Young University, presented at the Reading Horizons distributor seminar in Salt Lake City, Utah. He shared some interesting information about how English Language Learners (ELLs) benefit from explicit phonics instruction. Two of the reasons he cited include the following:

  1. reading fluency increases as students learn to decode words; and
  2. oral reading improves when students can decode words correctly.

Learn more about what decoding is ›

As defined by Dr. Anderson, reading fluency is “reading at an appropriate rate with adequate comprehension” (Anderson, 2008, p. 3). This definition of reading fluency is vital as teachers consider what an “appropriate reading rate” is for their students. Remember that reading quickly (an “appropriate rate”) without comprehending the content is not fluent reading. Additionally, reading super slowly and understanding everything (“adequate comprehension“) likewise is not fluent reading. The balance between the two—reading rate and comprehension—is important to fluency.

Listen to Dr. Anderson’s one-hour webinar presentation, Developing Fluent Readers, and earn free PD credit! ›

So what constitutes an “appropriate rate”? Anderson referenced national averages for optimal silent and oral reading rates by grade level (Reference for oral reading rates: Hasbrouck & Tindal, 2006). Since I’ve talked to several people who were interested in having access to this information, I thought I would include the information in this blog post below:

Silent Reading Rates & Oral Reading Rates | Words Per Minute [WPM]

optimal reading rates

Notice that oral reading rates beyond the 8th-grade level are not listed. When we read aloud, we generally do not read faster than what we can read at an 8th-grade reading level.

These silent and oral reading rates can be used as a guideline when discerning appropriate reading rates for students. You may adjust these reading rates to accommodate English Language Learners and students with reading difficulties.

Are you interested in learning more about Early Literacy or Lexile and Book Levels? Explore our FREE educational resources to learn how you can help the young readers in your life!


Anderson, N. J. (2008). Practical English language teaching: Reading. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Hasbrouck, J., & Tindal, G. A. (2006). Oral reading fluency norms: A valuable assessment tool for teaching teachers. The Reading Teacher, 59, 636-644.


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