What Age Should My Child Be Able to Read? A Guide to Ease Parents
When should my child be able to read? As an online reading specialist, I get asked this question a lot. That's because we, as parents, worry. We worry about keeping our children healthy, happy, and safe. We worry about the many milestones they must overcome to succeed in academics and everyday life. And for a good reason, reading is one of the most essential academic skills to master to succeed in school and a skill they will use for the rest of their lives. However, the answer isn't always as black and white as parents would like. Why do some three-year-olds show a great interest in reading and get an early start, while others don't master reading until an older age? One of the most important things to remember is not to compare your child to others because they all learn at different times and in different ways.
In this blog, we will ease your parental anxiety around reading while uncovering literacy skills and milestones your children should learn and at what age, reveal the average reading age, what makes a strong reading curriculum, and additional support for children who just aren't clicking in their reading.
Reading Milestones by Age
It's important to realize that learning to read is not an innate skill that children pick up naturally, like language development. Reading requires direct and systematic instruction through the essential stages of reading. It involves repetition of each specific topic or skill, and each child will move at their own pace. Therefore, each child will learn to read at a different rate and time as each reading journey will be unique to each child, their specific needs, and their development. However, I have provided useful information for each reading milestone below to give you an idea of the ideal skills they should learn and acquire at different ages.
Emergent Reader: This stage usually spans from birth to about five years old. At this stage, younger children are learning all the necessary pre-reading skills.
It's vital to introduce your child to early reading through picture books and board books and establish a daily reading time together. There are many benefits of reading aloud to your child. As they listen to the sound of your voice, they learn proper fluency and expression. Reading aloud also strengthens their language skills and helps them establish a love of reading at a young age.
Young children in this stage will learn the alphabet song, recognize letters of the alphabet, know some letter sounds, and identify the letters in their own name (and spell their name).
By the end of this stage, your child is most likely in kindergarten at an elementary school and learning much about reading as they begin to receive a formal education. However, it is never too early to start developing young readers.
Give your child a head start by introducing them to books, playing games, listening for sounds, and searching for letters. Overall, make reading enjoyable in their early years, and they will enjoy it for years!
Ages 0-1 Children Typically:
Children play with books, reach for them, and turn pages with help.
Understand 50+ words.
React to stories with noises or cooing; they might point or pat the illustrations.
Ages 1-3 Children Typically:
Point out familiar pictures in the book.
Answer simple questions about the story, such as, "Where is the cat?"
Point to objects in the book.
Recognize books and identify them by the cover.
Turn the pages of a book on their own.
They may pretend to read books aloud on their own or makeup stories.
Recite sentences from their favorite book.
Have a favorite book and ask to read it over and over again. (Hang in there, parents, it can be exhausting to read the same book repeatedly, but it's very normal and great for their reading development as it builds vocabulary, fluency, and understanding).
Age 3 or Early Preschool Age Children Typically:
Sit and look at books independently.
Can sit and listen to an adult read longer books.
They can recognize the first letter in their name.
Imitate someone reading a book aloud.
Recognize that letters are a separate thing from drawings. (For example, "Look, mommy, letters!" my three-year-old told me last night as we watched a movie, and the title sequence flashed up on the screen!)
Can sing their ABCs with some prompting and clues from an adult.
Retell a story they are familiar with.
Age 4 or Late Preschool Age Children Typically:
Can recognize symbols, signs, or labels (in a grocery store or restaurant, for example).
Start to recognize words that rhyme.
Can recognize several uppercase letters of the alphabet.
Can recognize the letters of their name.
Can write their name.
Children start to have some awareness of syllables.
Can retell stories that have been read aloud to them.
Attempt to write words with familiar letters.
Realize that print in books is read from top to bottom and left to right.
Age 5 or Kindergarten Children Typically:
Knows basic phonological awareness and phonemic awareness skills such as:
Put together words that rhyme.
Identify and manipulate small sounds of speech.
Identify the beginning, middle, and ending sounds of short words.
Can write some letters and words.
Identify some words in the printed text.
Can match some spoken to written words.
Make predictions about what might happen next in a story.
Understand the meaning of words.
Retell the sequence and events of a story.
Identify the main idea and elaborate on details such as who, what, where, when, and why.
Can read simple words in isolation and in simple stories or sentences.
Early Reader: This stage usually ranges from about ages five to seven. This stage is exciting as children start to piece individual sounds together to decode words, recognize sight words, and read simple stories with the help of an adult or teacher to help sound out unfamiliar words.
Ages 6 to 7 Children Typically:
Can decode or sound out words they do not know.
Read stories that are common or familiar to them.
Use context clues in surrounding sentences and visual cues to determine the meaning of a word they do not know.
Realize and correct themselves if they make a mistake in their reading.
Write a simple retelling of a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Express their comprehension of a specific text through detailed drawings.
Developing Reader: This stage usually includes children from around eight to ten years of age. At this stage, children start to be able to read more complex texts and read with greater fluency (reading speed). However, they still need time to build their vocabulary, fluency, and reading comprehension confidence. It is crucial at this stage to create a fun reading environment at home, encourage your child to read chapter books about topics of interest, and model a love of reading. Your example will surely leave a lasting impression on them!
Ages 7-8 (Grades 2nd-3rd) Children Typically:
Read chapter books independently.
Can read aloud with good prosody (rhythm) and expression.
Can use context clues and visual cues to figure out unknown words.
Can spell many words correctly.
Can use new words and or phrases.
Revise their writing, use correct punctuation, and understand the use of paragraphs. And can illustrate their own stories.
Proficient Reader: This stage usually applies to eleven through thirteen year olds.
Ages 8-13 years Children Typically:
Explore and make sense of many different kinds of texts, such as poetry, biographies, fiction, non-fiction, etc.
Understand expository, persuasive, and narrative texts.
Read and draw out specific information (For example, from a science or history book).
Know parts of speech (Verbs, nouns, adjectives, and more) and devices (metaphors, similies, alliteration, etc.)
Determine the main elements of a story (plot, characters, problem, resolution, etc.)
Analyze texts to find the main idea and author's purpose, can make inferences or draw conclusions based on clues from the text and prior knowledge, and more.
What's The Average Age Kids Learn to Read?
Kids typically learn to read at age 6 or 7 (1st or 2nd grade).
According to the U.S. Department of Education, most kids have learned to read by age eight, and it's essential because it is a pivotal time in their reading development. It's the last year children are explicitly taught to read, then in fourth grade, they are solely expected to read to learn. They are no longer being taught to learn to read. All curriculum is now reading-based and requires them to read independently, comprehend, and make connections and meaning to the text.
Many of my students who are behind by eight years old or 3rd grade start to have a lack of confidence, behavioral problems, and an aversion to reading. Studies show that students who struggle to read in fourth grade have a hard time in more areas than academics. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, "Children who reach fourth-grade without being able to read proficiently are more likely to drop out of high school, reducing their earnings potential and chances for success. Kids with poor reading skills are also more likely to engage in high-risk behavior during adolescence. This issue is a national priority, as the U.S. government has set a public health objective to improve fourth-grade reading proficiency by 2030."
What Makes A Strong Reading Curriculum?
As mentioned above, reading is challenging and requires systematic and direct instruction for a child to progress. It takes a lot of repetition and practice to learn a new skill, such as reading, and because it is systematic, one skill builds off of another. You must master one step before moving on to the next. Primary school children often get far behind in their reading because their teacher is juggling so many kids and must move on in the curriculum before all students are ready, often leaving them behind, making it hard for them to catch up. Below are the key concepts a child must master to learn to read.
I love reading curriculums that provide the student with a sensory experience. As an Orton Gillingham-trained tutor from the Institute For Multi-Sensory Education, children need instruction that touches all learning styles and parts of the brain. For example, when I work on sight words with a student, I ensure we use visuals, auditory chants, body movements, and more.
A strong curriculum will also grasp your child's different reading levels and give them material to read at their instructional level, proven to be the best level to place children to make the most progress. At this level, it provides students with the perfect amount of challenge without frustrating them.
It is also great when a program can track your child's progress and ensure they receive instruction specific to their needs. To find the reading gap and help them crack the code to catch up in their reading. One of the best ways to do this is to hire a reading tutor/specialist such as myself. I work with clients all over the world via Zoom. Click the button below to sign up for a FREE Reading Assessment and see if we might be the perfect fit!
What To Do If You Think Your Child is Behind in Reading
If you think your child is behind in reading and does not meet the average ages of development and general milestones in this blog, check them.
The first step is to reach out to their teacher. They spend a lot of time with your child and have a good idea of their strengths and weaknesses and what you can do at home to support them.
It's also free for you as the parent to have your child evaluated through the school. The school psychologist or speech-language pathologist will assess your child and determine if your child needs any extra help or support.
You can also contact your child's doctor for guidance in finding out if they might have a learning disability or delay in child development.
For more information on this topic, I invite you to visit my blog titled Warning Signs: How to Identify If Your Child Is Struggling With Reading to discover common signs to look for that indicate your child is struggling with reading and what to do about it.
Reading may take your child a long time to master. It looks different for each child. Your child may need more nudging in the right direction than others, but it is possible to catch up, and you have got this!
The early learning stage matters, so be sure to read children's books to them from a young age. Make story time a part of your daily routine. The early learning and exposure count! And listen to that mommy instinct. If you think your child has any disability or needs special help, do not be afraid to seek guidance from a professional. The earlier the intervention, the better. So grab a good book and have fun with it. Even older children love to read chapter books with their parents and benefit significantly from your enthusiasm and support in their reading.
Overall, I hope this blog helped ease some of your anxieties around reading milestones and expectations for children. The good news is that reading is challenging for everybody, and you know your child best and what makes them tick. Find a fun way to work on reading together and help them excel. Enjoy your time together!
If you are still feeling overwhelmed or unsure where to begin hiring a reading tutor such as myself is a great way to take some of the pressure off of busy parents, set aside time to read each week, and make significant progress. Click the button below to sign up for a FREE Reading Assessment today!
About the Author
Janay Neufeld is an online reading specialist and confidence coach for kids. Her unique approach can help children worldwide increase their confidence and reading skills with positive mindset training, helping them reach their full potential!
She has ten years of experience helping children feel like skilled, confident readers. She has her multiple-subject teaching credential, Orton Gillingham trained through the Institute for Multisensory Education, and she has a Master of Arts in Education. She is also certified as a life coach for kids through Adventures in Wisdom.
Does your child need help with reading? Click the button below to sign up for a FREE Reading Assessment to get the tutoring process started today!