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Reading Milestones

This is a general outline of the milestones on the road to reading success. Keep in mind that kids develop at different paces and spend varying amounts of time at each stage. If you have concerns, talk to your child's doctor, teacher, or the reading specialist at school. Early intervention is key in helping kids who struggle to read.

Parents and teachers can find resources for children as early as pre-kindergarten. Quality childcare centers, pre-kindergarten programs, and homes full of language and book reading can build an environment for reading milestones to happen.

Infancy (Up to Age 1)

Kids usually begin to:

  • learn that gestures and sounds communicate meaning
  • respond when spoken to
  • direct their attention to a person or object
  • understand 50 words or more
  • reach for books and turn the pages with help
  • respond to stories and pictures by vocalizing and patting the pictures

Toddlers (Ages 1–3)

Kids usually begin to:

  • answer questions about and identify objects in books — such as "Where's the cow?" or "What does the cow say?"
  • name familiar pictures
  • use pointing to identify named objects
  • pretend to read books
  • finish sentences in books they know well
  • scribble on paper
  • know names of books and identify them by the picture on the cover
  • turn pages of board books
  • have a favorite book and request it to be read often

Early Preschool (Age 3)

Kids usually begin to:

  • explore books independently
  • listen to longer books that are read aloud
  • retell a familiar story
  • sing the alphabet song with prompting and cues
  • make symbols that resemble writing
  • recognize the first letter in their name
  • learn that writing is different from drawing a picture
  • imitate the action of reading a book aloud

Late Preschool (Age 4)

Kids usually begin to:

  • recognize familiar signs and labels, especially on signs and containers
  • recognize words that rhyme
  • name some of the letters of the alphabet (a good goal to strive for is 15–18 uppercase letters)
  • recognize the letters in their names
  • write their names
  • name beginning letters or sounds of words
  • match some letters to their sounds
  • develop awareness of syllables
  • use familiar letters to try writing words
  • understand that print is read from left to right, top to bottom
  • retell stories that have been read to them

Kindergarten (Age 5)

Kids usually begin to:

  • produce words that rhyme
  • match some spoken and written words
  • write some letters, numbers, and words
  • recognize some familiar words in print
  • predict what will happen next in a story
  • identify initial, final, and medial (middle) sounds in short words
  • identify and manipulate increasingly smaller sounds in speech
  • understand concrete definitions of some words
  • read simple words in isolation (the word with definition) and in context (using the word in a sentence)
  • retell the main idea, identify details (who, what, when, where, why, how), and arrange story events in sequence

First and Second Grade (Ages 6–7)

Kids usually begin to:

  • read familiar stories
  • "sound out" or decode unfamiliar words
  • use pictures and context to figure out unfamiliar words
  • use some common punctuation and capitalization in writing
  • self-correct when they make a mistake while reading aloud
  • show comprehension of a story through drawings
  • write by organizing details into a logical sequence with a beginning, middle, and end

Second and Third Grade (Ages 7–8)

Kids usually begin to:

  • read longer books independently
  • read aloud with proper emphasis and expression
  • use context and pictures to help identify unfamiliar words
  • understand the concept of paragraphs and begin to apply it in writing
  • correctly use punctuation
  • correctly spell many words
  • write notes, like phone messages and email
  • understand humor in text
  • use new words, phrases, or figures of speech that they've heard
  • revise their own writing to create and illustrate stories

Fourth Through Eighth Grade (Ages 9–13)

Kids usually begin to:

  • explore and understand different kinds of texts, like biographies, poetry, and fiction
  • understand and explore expository, narrative, and persuasive text
  • read to extract specific information, such as from a science book
  • understand relations between objects
  • identify parts of speech and devices like similes and metaphors
  • correctly identify major elements of stories, like time, place, plot, problem, and resolution
  • read and write on a specific topic for fun, and understand what style is needed
  • analyze texts for meaning
Date reviewed: June 2018