Reading is an important skill to learn and a big step in your child's early development. Being able to independently dive into books — to feel the joy of reading on their own — is essential for your child's confidence. Knowing about reading milestones can help you help them!
What are Reading Milestones by Age
Reading Milestones by age refers to specific benchmarks that a child reaches during learning how to read. Reading milestones can be measured by age or by a child's reading level (such as Kindergarten).
Although reading milestone checkpoints can help you keep track of your child's progress, there are no hard-and-fast rules about when children should be able to do something or what they should know.
Children develop at their rates; your child may reach a milestone earlier or later than other kids their age based on various factors, so don't worry too much.
Instead, milestones can help you choose the right books and resources to support your child’s progression as they move through the different reading levels.
We recommend working on reading skills in small increments rather than focusing on meeting every milestone at once.
The most effective way for children to learn is by combining consistent practice with informal interactive activities like storytime or “reading aloud” with you.
Reading Milestone Categories
Reading milestones can be divided into three main categories:
1. Reading Vocabulary Milestones
Reading vocabulary refers to when and how often children know certain words, typically based on age.
2. Reading Comprehension Milestones
Reading comprehension refers to the child's ability to understand what they read and their level of understanding.
3. Reading Fluency and Speed Milestones
Reading fluency is associated with how well one reads, meaning reading quickly and accurately without mistakes or mispronunciation.
Here are the reading milestones (by age) to keep in mind as your little one grows older and progresses on their reading journey.
Reading Milestones by Age
The following outlines some important milestones for reading development at different ages:
Babies 0 – 12 Months
As early as infancy, your child begins developing skills that will help them on their reading journey. Without even realising it, interactions with books and words (before they can even talk) establish a foundation for a love of reading later in life.
At this age, babies are just learning to focus on pictures and objects.
Reading milestones for babies during these first months of life include:
- Pointing at or touching a picture that is in front of them while they look at it.
- Making noises when shown an object like a ball or toy animal (even if they can't say the word “ball” or “animal”).
- Start to reach for soft-covered books or board books.
Toddlers 12 months – 36 Months
As your toddler grows, the noises they made before will soon enough become their first words!
Toddlers start to recognise objects from the words they hear and the sights they see in their day-to-day life. The pictures your child sees in picture books, such as puppies, zebra stripes, or candy, will soon start to become part of their vocabulary.
This age is a critical period of development. Toddlers are learning to speak and read new words with every day that goes by. To encourage little ones to shout out what they know, you can point to things and ask them what they see. For example, “What is in this dog’s mouth?
At this age, your child may become more involved with storytime. They might want to hold the book, for example. We recommend letting them turn the pages while you read together.
As your toddler starts to turn pages and ‘read’, they may want to tell you the story themselves. Encourage them by allowing them to turn the pages and babble a story to you.
Reading milestones for toddlers during this time include:
- Recognising single words with help from parents.
- Recognising favourite books.
- Reciting the words of their favourite books.
- Understanding a story read to them by the time they are around 33 months old or older.
- Enjoying interactive books and stories that include action like touchy-feely pages. These can be any age-appropriate book for this stage of development, such as ‘Brown Bear What Do You See?’
Pre-schoolers 3 – 4 Years Old
As your pre-schooler enters this stage of their reading development, they will be able to understand many more words and even be able to tell a story.
If your child goes to daycare or school, the teacher will introduce the different parts of a book. Your child will learn that we read from left to right what the spine and front and back covers of a book are.
Your little one may even be taught about authors, illustrators and main characters of the books they are reading.
It is also important to teach phonics at this age. Rhyming songs and word games are great for teaching your child the relationship between letters and sounds.
Reading milestones for pre-schoolers include:
- Reading the alphabet, recognising letters with help from parents.
- Starting to match letter sounds to letters (like knowing d makes a /d/ sound).
- Reading simple words.
- Reciting familiar stories by memory or with prompts from parents.
- Enjoying reading books that are easy, such as Dr Seuss books like One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.
- Holding a book correctly.
- Starting to be able to rhyme words
- May start to recognise their name in print and other often-seen words, like those on signs and logos.
Kindergartners 5 – 6 Years Old
Around this age, your child’s reading milestones start becoming more complex as they break apart and understand words better.
Your kindergartener will start to see the letters are uppercase or lowercase and that letters are found outside books.
At this age, your child will learn how words are made up of individual phonemic sounds and start to identify the beginning, middle and end sounds. Fun activities to develop phonemic awareness are a great tool. Older children will even begin to group words that start and end with the same sound.
At this age, your child should recognise letter sounds and decode unfamiliar words by sounding them out. They may also begin noticing punctuation and how it affects the tone of the sentences they read.
Your child will be exposed to sight words along with learning phonetically regular words (words that sound the way they're spelled). Play our free sight word game with your child.
Sight words are in most instances, words that cannot be decoded by sounding them out. These are words that your child will have to memorise. How quickly your child learns the sight words will differ from child to child.
Their vocabulary and word recognition will likely grow, especially with high-frequency words that often appear in things they read — words like ‘a’, ‘and’, ‘to’ and ‘the’.
Finally, all the new (and old!) stories they read will help them feel confident as readers and all the more eager to read more and more!
Reading milestones for kindergartners include:
- Reading one word at a time independently (sight words).
- Decoding simple words by sounding them out.
- Reading simple sentences with help from adults or siblings.
- Match each letter to the sound it represents.
- Identify the beginning, middle, and ending sounds in spoken words like dog or sit.
- Say new words by changing the beginning sound, like changing ‘cat’ to ‘bat’.
- Answer comprehension questions about the story.
- Use words or pictures to retell the story.
First Graders, Young Elementary 6 – 7 Years Old
As your child’s reading skills grow, they will become more confident in their abilities and probably explore independent reading.
As they read more and their vocabulary grows, their understanding of stories will also improve. They'll be able to pick up on more high-frequency words like “of” or “the.”
At this age, they become more familiar with punctuation and how the meaning of a sentence can be altered. They will also be able to decode unfamiliar words as they read more than just their favourite stories. At this age, your child may also start to show an interest in longer chapter style books.
Reading milestones for first graders include:
- Starting to read independently.
- Decoding unfamiliar words.
- Starting to use expression when reading.
- Starting to learn the rules of spelling.
- Increased sight word recognition.
- Improvement of reading fluency and speed.
- Self-correcting their reading by going back and re-reading a sentence that does not make sense.
- Connecting personal experiences, other books they’ve read, and world events to what they are reading.
Older Grade School, Older Elementary 8 – 10 Years Old
Reading Milestones at this level is the most challenging. The reader should read independently, with an understanding of concepts such as story elements and plot points.
With the foundations of reading mastered, your child is ready for a shift! The focus will not be about learning how to read, but instead on reading to learn new things.
As your child continues to grow, finding books with their interests in mind will become more critical. Bedtime reading may start to become independent reading time.
Reading comprehension will also continue to be taught, with the focus on text-to-self connections and predictions about what might happen later in a story. You can learn more about How To Improve Children’s Reading Comprehension here.
This age group will often ask questions about what they're reading or “read ahead” when excited about the book. They can identify characters and talk about a story's theme. They will also start to be able to predict and make inferences about the story.
Reading milestones for this age group include:
- Reading words with more than one syllable.
- Learning about prefixes, suffixes, and root words.
- Starting to explore different genres of books.
- Identifying major and minor themes and summarising the sequence of events in a story.
- Making inferences (“read between the lines”) by using clues from the text and prior knowledge.
- Referring to evidence from the text when answering questions about it.
- Understanding similes, metaphors, and other descriptive devices.
- Reading longer books independently.
- Reading aloud with proper emphasis and expression.
- Understanding the concept of paragraphs and beginning to apply it in writing.
- Correctly use punctuation.
- Continuing to build on spelling rule knowledge.
- Improving reading speed and fluency.
Reading milestones is a great way to see how your child's reading ability is progressing. However, it is essential to remember that although reading milestones are important, every child is different. Some children may take longer to grasp a particular skill than others.
Encouragement is a great motivator; however, if you are concerned about your child's reading, we recommend The Children Learning Reading Program.
This program teaches toddlers and small children (2-7 years old) to read effectively. However the program is also suitable for older children struggling to read or are having difficulty learning to read.