Orthographic Processing

Becoming a strong reader requires both the capacity to utilize sound-based decoding strategies and the ability to recognize familiar words accurately. Orthographic processing includes the ability to identify familiar letter patterns as words. Good readers rely less heavily on sound-based decoding strategies and more on orthographic processing.


“Fluency is defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and proper expression. In order to understand what they read, both children must be able to read fluently whether they are reading aloud or silently. When reading aloud, fluent readers read in phrases and add intonation appropriately.” (ReadingRocket.com) Even adults slow down and return to sounding out words when reading new or complicated content.

Because readers need to recognize words automatically, they rely heavily on their orthographic processing for fluency. Educators have long used fluency tests to determine a student’s speed and accuracy. These are targeted benchmarks for each grade level to evaluate progress and assess reading level.


Reading fluency connects word analysis/recognition skills directly to comprehension. Fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding words; they can focus their attention on what the text means. They make connections among the ideas in the material and their background knowledge. In other words, fluent readers recognize words and comprehend at the same time. Readers that must focus their attention on figuring out the words have less attention for understanding the meaning of the text.


Once the reader successfully stores the word pattern (orthographic representation) in long-term memory, it is available for rapid retrieval. The word is recognizable in other formats. The new reading skill transfers across formats. (For example, when the reader learns a word while reading with the Times New Roman font, it is still recognizable if presented in Arial.)

Tune Your Text

Readers can decode more quickly with their own best Readability Format. This process is the same for both children and adults.


“Fluency is the developmental process that connects decoding with everything we know about words to make the meaning of the text come to life. Fluency is a wonderful bridge to comprehension and to a life-long love of reading.”

Maryanne Wolf, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies