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The Right Story at the Right Time for Ages 3-5

What kinds of tales can your child understand and appreciate now? Follow these age-by-age guidelines.
 

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Critical Thinking
Imagination
Reading Comprehension

At age 3, children may:

  • be preoccupied with "good" and "bad" behavior and expect happy story outcomes
  • seek comfort and reassurance through stories
  • prefer stories with simple plots and no digressions


At age 4, children may:

  • be attracted to separation/reunion stories
  • prefer stories about forgiveness for transgressions 
  • recognize the basic emotions in story characters: mad, sad, and glad
  • have a growing appreciation of incongruity due to a better grasp of real and pretend
  • invent stories that are action-packed chains of events with little unifying theme


At age 5, children may:

  • begin, with guidance, to consider underlying reasons for a character's behavior 
  • be better able to recognize more subtle emotions in characters (for example, disappointment, confusion, frustration, embarrassment, and panic), even though they may not have the vocabulary for them
  • gradually realize that a character's actions and intentions could be contradictory
  • respond to stories that show triumph over adversity

The Reading Toolkit