Reading Milestones – What to Expect

Have you ever wondered what goes on in a child’s mind when he reads?

This is a question that parents have struggled with for decades – even a century. Some parents claim that the child is “just looking at the pictures” while others swear that their child “understands” anything the first time he reads it. So how do you know if the child is really comprehending what he reads? Simple, by asking him to narrate it or re-tell it. That’s the logic behind test questions and comprehension right? But then that’s easier said than done. Besides, a lot depends upon the age of the child, his learning environment, and his own individual skillset and capabilities.

When parents find their child unable to grasp the meaning of what he reads, they panic and wonder if other children of the same age face the same problem. To make things easier, we’ve put together some age appropriate reading milestones for you. On a note of caution – this is a generic framework and you should remember that each child is an individual and learns at his or her own pace. A difference of a year or two – perhaps even three – may not really matter. You should keep working with the child.

That said, do you know how children learn to read?

How do children learn to read?

One school of thought says that if you surround your child with enough books they’ll eventually learn to read them. Parents of dyslexics and other children with learning difficulties beg to differ. Unlike the spoken language, reading does not come naturally. In order to be able to read, you require certain specific skills. We’ll talk about these skills in another blog. For now, suffice it to say that reading is not mere recognition of the alphabet – that is only the first step. Once that is accomplished, children must learn to form words, recognize them, and know what the words mean. Indeed, the written text is a code that must be deciphered to be understood. So learning to read is a step by step process – a skill that children acquire gradually over the years. The next most obvious question then is – which skill should a child acquire and at what age? In other words, what are the reading milestones for a child?

What are Reading Milestones?

Actually, reading skills begin with recognition of sound. Even within the womb, a child is learning to recognize sound. As an infant grows he learns to distinguish one sound from another and gradually gives objects names. For instance, he may associate a face with the sound “ma” and another with the sound “pa” or associate a round object with the sound of “ball”. While learning to distinguish and identify sounds, a six-month old is more interested in chewing his books rather than reading them. By the time he is a year old, he may imitate mom, dad, or grandpa by sitting on the sofa with a book on his lap “reading”. He may mimic an older sibling “studying” by scribbling in books or turning its pages.

Bet every parent has a snap of their child sitting and “reading” a book that he holds upside down!

By age 2 or 3 the child has a “favorite” book – one that he recognizes by the cover and which he has practically memorized – if the parents have read it out loud enough times that is. The book is most likely dog-eared and your kiddo insists on carrying it around wherever he goes – even into the bathtub or on his potty chair. By now he is an expert at recognizing pictures from books he owns and familiar images in books that are new to him. He might even say “cat” or “meow” when he sees the picture of a cat or the alphabet C in a magazine or on a hoarding – pointing it out to you. But he still does not know words or recognize them – even though he may speak a full sentence of three or more words. He also understands the right way to hold a book – no longer upside down – and knows that it is something to learn from. He’ll know that reading is done from left to right – depending of course on the language – and should be able to identify alphabets in the text. He is ready to learn the sounds that various alphabets make and demonstrate his skill – read phonetics – by calling out the sounds of alphabet he recognizes. He may even be able to point out certain very familiar words – such as his name – words that he has seen and heard frequently.

By the time your little one is ready to enter elementary school (primary school), he should be able to scan – recognize without actually reading or spelling – two and three letter words. He may begin to express interest in new books demanding to read them. He may be able to spell-read new words and try to pronounce them but even if he is unable to do that, he most likely has a sense that words have a beginning, middle, and ending sound. He should also be able to recognize familiar two and three letter words in unfamiliar text. Sentence reading is a bit more complex but your child should be able to read small words in isolation – and tell or ask about their meaning by reading a word in a questioning tone expecting you to fill in with its meaning. This is perhaps the beginning of his exposure to vocabulary – and the right time to begin tapping into his curiosity and encourage his reading habit.

How to inculcate reading habit.

By the time your toddler has grown to age 5, 6, or 7, he should be familiar with spelling rules and well on his way to scan-reading with a reasonable vocabulary – which means he should be able to read short simple sentences unfalteringly at a reasonable speed. He should be able to relate what he has read – reading comprehension – albeit within his limited vocabulary and framework. He should be doing this for sentences as well as words and should go back to read a word or sentence that he did not quite get. He should also be able to map his reading to real life events and other books or reading material and demonstrate his recognition.

Time to bring in the dictionary and encyclopedia.

By the time he is 10 he should be reading between the lines and making simple interpretations from his reading. He should be reading with a defined goal – to study, for pleasure, or to gain additional knowledge – and be able to compare information gained from different sources. He will be able to grasp the meaning of idioms, phrases, metaphors, and sayings – and interpret them correctly. At 11 and 12 he will be able to grasp the theme or main idea of text and even summarize it – if only orally and in an informal manner. By 13 or 14 he should begin precis writing.

As he grows older he will be able to use his reading to make analysis and prove a point. He should be able to ideate and form his own opinion about subject matter that he reads by comparing it to what he may have read elsewhere.

By now your little one is approaching adulthood. Does his reading and learning stop here? Tell us what you think in the comments or through our Facebook Group. Do sign up for our newsletter if you want the latest from BYN in your Inbox.

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