When Do Kids Learn To Read & What Do I Expect Of Them?

There's a lot to stress out about when you become a parent. You're suddenly charged with keeping an actual human being alive and thriving, and that's nothing to sneeze at! But even once you've moved past the age where they rely on your for literal life, there's still plenty of worrying and wondering and tracking of milestones to be done. Parents can get really bogged down in this idea that kids should meet certain milestones at certain ages - every child is different, and will develop at their own pace. It can start to get really tricky once your child starts school, and they're suddenly expected to meet all of these substantial developmental and academic milestones.

A big one is reading - plenty of parents worry and wonder about when they child should learn to read. While there is no "right" age your child should learn to read, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind as your child learns and moves through their developmental milestones.

Mommy, mommy why the dragon want to eat a princess?
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Pre-reading skills in preschool and kindergarten, between the ages of 4-5

Kids don't just suddenly pick up a book and know how to read - there are many skills they'll pick up before that time comes! Between the ages of 4-5, your child may start exhibiting some pre-reading skills. These include swapping out words in rhyming patterns, recognizing letters and letter sounds, being able to write their letters, and they may even recognize simple words in print (like "can" and "no"). Their reading comprehension is also starting to develop at this age; they'll be able to identify the main idea and characters in stories you read together, and arrange the sequence of events in a story.

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Learning to read in first and second grade, between the ages of 6-7

By the middle of first grade, your child will likely be able to recognize about 100 sight words, and may even be reading simple books (even if they need some assistance). They should know their letters and letter sounds, and understand that those letters form words. Even if they come across an unfamiliar word, they should be able to sound it out to pronounce it, using just the letters and letter sounds. Kids at this age will also be using pictures to help them decode certain words - being able to decipher picture clues is a big step in being able to read and comprehend.

Asian boy reading a book on the sofa at home (selected focus)
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Reading to learn in second and third grade, between the ages of 7-8

By second or third grade, many children are able to read longer books without assistance, and their reading comprehension has improved. They're able to understand writing structure like paragraphs and punctuation, and can read aloud with emphasis and expression. Their vocabulary will continue to grow, and they'll start using new words and phrases correctly in conversation and writing.

But again, this is just a guideline - this isn't set in stone. Some children will learn to read much earlier than first or second grade; some won't get comfortable with reading until later, even fourth or fifth grade. If you suspect your child is having some difficulties with reading, it's important to work closely with their teacher to identify any potential areas of concern. And it can help to make reading fun, and allow your kids to read books that interest them. Kids will want to read if they love what they're reading.

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