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Children of various ages are reading books. Reading, kids activities, fun, educational.

Simple Guide to Your Little One's Reading Milestones

Reading is a foundational skill for our children, which makes reading milestones an important aspect of parenting. When it comes to raising kids, the development of reading habits is often worked into everyday life, making it as simple and easy as possible for kids to learn this crucial life skill. Plus, there is so much magic in reading that children desire to be swept away in a great story, piquing their interest from the beginning of their childhood.

What are Reading Milestones?

The Romans are famous for building roads.  This helped them in many ways, but a road is only useful if you know where you are. That is why they placed markers or stones at every mile to help those traveling know where they were and how far they had travelled. Another word for these markers is “m ilestones”.

As parents, we use milestones when teaching our kids to read so that we can help measure what they understand, how far they have come, and how best to help them discover the next steps to the magic of reading. Their journey begins with hearing sounds and turning pages of books and continues through the ability to understand what letters are, read full words and eventually to the unaided reading of chapter books. The process is very exciting! 

The Reading Journey (0-5 years)

Every child is an individual that develops at their own pace. This is an important point for parents when they are evaluating their kids. Most often reading milestones are distinguished by age but this doesn’t mean that your children will meet them exactly as described.

The key for kids to progress is consistency and time, not their age. A combination of their interests and their personality also plays an important role in when they learn to read. The question, “At what age do kids learn to read?” is best answered with a range of ages and steps rather than a specific age. What do these steps look like?

First Steps (0-1 year)

A Dad is reading a book to his baby girl in the garden. Reading, kids activities, fun, educational.

The first year of life for a baby isn’t going to be filled with discussions of Shakespeare and Darwin but what it will consist of is the beginning stages of understanding sounds. In this stage, babies begin to understand that sounds have meaning, even if they can’t understand what that meaning is.

They also can interact with books! The act of holding a book and seeing letters, words, and paragraphs is powerful in your baby’s reading development. Sounds books for babies, like those from Cali’s Books, engage all of the senses, helping kids not only remember more, but also make reading fun and exciting.

These milestones include reacting to sounds, trying to turn the pages of books, and showing an interest in and interacting with books.

Words Begin to Make Sense (1-2 years)

A baby girl is playing with a book in the garden. Reading, kids activities, fun, educational.

The transition from 1 to 2 years old includes a lot of change, including walking and the beginning stages of talking. Kids begin to associate words and pictures (or objects), such as the spoon they eat with or see in a book and the sound they make every time they pick it up or point at it. Kids also enjoy listening to story books, which they can now flip through one page at a time.

When you have great story books like “Baby Shark Story Time” or "The Wheels on  the Bus", kids will be able to point out characters when you call them by name (like the baby shark) or the items when you see them (like the baseball and bats), bringing these words to life for them. 

Playing with Language (2-3 years)

One child and one toddler are reading books in the garden. Reading, kids activities, fun, educational.

All kids seem to fall in love with a specific book or story and ask for that one over and over again. Has this happened to you as a parent? By this age, kids are good at following along with their favorite stories, even laughing or smiling before their favorite parts are read.

You can encourage this behavior by indulging their desires. Remember, just because you have read “Patty Cake” 50 times and want to read another story, this isn’t about you! By reading interesting books like The Nutcracker”, you can engage their senses and help them enjoy hitting their reading milestones. 

Letters and Sounds (3-4 years)

A child is reading a book in the garden. Reading, kids activities, fun, educational.

As your children grow, they will begin to recognize that letters and words are read from left to right and will follow along with a finger as you read the story. If when you read to your kids, your finger follows the words, they will grasp this concept sooner. Most kids can also recognize letters and maybe even small words.

If parents want to help solidify these skills, there are activities that you can do as a family that will develop this part of their reading skillset. What kind of fun activities?

  •   Fun cue cards with letters that kids can recognize
  •   Draw items on a whiteboard, like Pictionary, and get the kids to guess the item
  •   Use one of your favorite alphabet books to showcase letters to your kids

Ready for Reading (4-5 years)

A Dad is reading a book to his boy in the garden. Reading, kids activities, fun, educational.

By 4 and 5 years of age, kids have normally been exposed to lots of reading by parents and loved ones. They also see written words all over the place. Adults may not realize it but there are words all around us, every day. Kids see this because the stimulus is new for them.

Common words become identifiable at this milestone, and you can often see kids looking at small words like cat, dog, jump or rat and speaking the words out loud. With their favorite books, kids can even memorize the story, which etches these associations in their minds. The ability to write letters (the ones found in their name especially) is another skill that is common at this age.

Becoming Independent Readers (5 years and beyond)

Two children are reading and posing with a book in the garden. Reading, kids activities, fun, educational.

Reading milestones at this age have a momentum that carries kids into the next stages of reading with a power that is almost unstoppable. Children have an unquenchable desire to learn and once they realize that these words and paragraphs are stories and interesting information ready for the taking, they will want to continue to read. How can you help them and what should you look out for?

  • Kids that are 5-6 years old can recognize many words and start reading simple sentences. Help them by giving them simple things to read about subjects they are interested in.
  • 6 to 7-year-old kids begin to understand the big picture of a story and can use their knowledge of words and the context to understand what unfamiliar words mean. Encourage this by asking them questions about what they have read and get them to explain the story.
  • 7 to 8-year-old kids can read more complex and longer material and can handle reading for longer periods. Their reading becomes more fluent, and they have a great understanding of the stories and information they are reading.

Enjoy the Journey

There is nothing quite like the feeling of your child running up to you excitedly to explain something they just read that was interesting or funny. To see how they have grown is a joy to all parents and the pride that bubbles up at knowing that they worked hard to achieve that level of understanding.

All children pass through their reading milestones by age a little differently but once they do, they won’t need you to come back and help them again so enjoy the process because once they can do it on their own, they will. You have a small window of intimate teaching time with your little ones, so revel in their curiosity and joy while you can. While the answer to the question, “When do kids learn to read?” varies from child to child, one day they will inevitably be able to do it on their own and that can be bittersweet.

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Cali's Books, founder, about us, why I love books, children's books

Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books

“I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”

I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!

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