Reading is one of the most important skills children learn in early elementary school, but every child learns how to do it in their own way and at their own pace. Some kids love to talk about what they’re reading in school and can’t wait to test their new skills when it’s time for a bedtime story. Others are more tight-lipped about what they’re reading in school or reluctant to practice reading at home.
This guide will help you know if your child is on the right track, and give you helpful ideas for boosting those reading skills. To start, here’s what to expect during these ages!
By the end of kindergarten, your child will be expected to...
recognize and name all upper- and lowercase letters in the alphabet
read basic single-syllable words
with prompting and support, identify the main topic in a text
retell familiar stories
write simple stories using pictures and words
read their own writing back to you (even if they have some misspellings)
write a letter for every sound they hear in a word
place spaces between words when writing
use upper and lower case correctly when writing (these Write and Wipe books will help with that!)
By the end of first grade, your child will be expected to...
recognize the distinguishing parts of a sentence, including capitalization and punctuation
pronounce unfamiliar but commonly spelled one-syllable words
read words with inflectional endings (-ing, -ly, -ed, -tion)
By the end of second grade, your child will be learning how to (but not have mastery of)...
pronounce unfamiliar two-syllable words
recount stories and say what the lesson or moral is
identify the beginning, middle, and end of a story
identify the points of view of different characters
learning to summarize stories with important facts only, as opposed to retelling the whole story
Don’t be concerned if these skills develop erratically, unless your child...
has trouble remembering new words
has trouble blending sounds together to say words
says reading is easier for their classmates
avoids reading silently or aloud
If your child is struggling to read at home but you haven’t been informed of an issue at school, check to see if the books they’re reading with you are at the correct reading level. “Sometimes kids resist reading at home because the books are too hard,” says Marissa Fraser, an elementary school teacher in Danbury, Conn. Dad may be eager to read the Harry Potter series with your six-year-old, but perhaps the magical crystals and wizards in the Dragon Masters series are a better place to start the family’s foray into fantasy.
If an older sibling is reading a series they’re interested in but not ready for, see if there’s an easier option for your new reader to start with. Some characters, like Pete the Cat, have phonics sets for beginner readers to try before diving into the actual Pete the Cat books. (For more on what to expect during these years, read our full guides for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade!)