In babyhood, most of the milestones we look for are hard to miss. The first foods our baby eats, the first words they babble, and the first steps they take are all baby-book-entry worthy events. As kids get older though their milestones are often further between and a little easier to miss. That’s especially true with kids’ literacy development. While we might assume that learning to read is a single event, it turns out there are lots of mini-milestones along the way to being an independent reader. Read on to find out what skills your elementary-aged student will master along the way to reading on their own.
Before your child enters kindergarten they’ll likely know a lot about reading and writing just from living in the world and being read to. They’ll understand how to turn pages, that you read from left to right, and that the symbols on the page are letters that make words. They will also likely understand that the pictures on each page are associated with the story and might even “write” notes that are a jumble of straight and curved lines that look, in their eyes, like the symbols that letters are.
All About Letters
While there’s no “right” age to begin to learn about or master letters, many kids begin to recognize letters and pair them with their associated sound sometime around their 5th or 6th year. They might also recognize upper and lower case letters and start to learn about “sight words,” or words that they don’t have to sound-out and can read on sight.
After you kiddo learn the letters and their sounds, they’ll start decoding. Decoding is basically sounding out words by blending the sounds of different letters together. During this time kids will begin to sound out worlds they see in the world around them. They’ll also begin to recognize more sight words and start reading easy-reader books. This phase of learning to read is pretty short for some kids, lasting just a few months, and quite a bit longer for others. Usually, kids are moving out of this phase by the time they are in their 7th or 8th year.
Reading to Learn
As kids move beyond having to sound out words and start to read more fluently, they’ll start to engage with books in a different way. They’ll move beyond easy-reader books and start to choose books they are interested in. They’ll begin to be able to tell you more about the characters, setting, and flow of a story and retain information from different texts. Most kids reach this level of literacy by their 8th or 9th year and then continue to refine these skills throughout elementary school.
Learning to read is a big deal and no two kids follow the exact same timeline. As long as your kiddo is progressing through the stages of learning to read and is feeling good about their abilities, they’ll likely acquire the skills they need to read in good time. One of the best things you can do to help your child learn to read is to read aloud with them. Even once your child can read to themselves, sharing a bedtime story is a great way to connect, help them explore stories they love, and boost their literacy skills.