Reading to Learn: Upper Elementary Reading Skills

Encourage these signs of progress in your independent reader.



Reading to Learn: Upper Elementary Reading Skills

The main goal in grades 3 to 5 is for children to become enthusiastic, independent readers who can use their skills to learn new material in all subjects — from history to math. Put simply, children focus on learning to read through 2nd grade. After that, they "read to learn," as well as read for pleasure.

The National Research Council, the National Reading Panel, and the National Institute for Literacy identified these skills as key for kids to become strong, independent readers who enjoy reading:

1. Fluency: Fluent readers recognize words automatically so they can focus their attention on making connections among the ideas and their background knowledge.
Reading milestones:

  • Instant recognition of words
  • Reading out loud with expression
  • Reading quickly and accurately

2. Comprehension: To get the most out of reading, your child needs to read with a purpose — whether she's reading directions to a game, a textbook to learn about the first Thanksgiving, or a mystery for fun.
Reading milestones:

  • Putting events in sequence
  • Articulating the main idea
  • Summarizing a story orally or in writing

3. Spelling and writing: The focus in the upper grades is learning to spell correctly and write more sophisticated compositions with organized paragraphs and correct punctuation.

  • Using a dictionary to look up words he doesn't know
  • Researching and composing a simple report using a variety of sources
  • Revising compositions with help from his teacher to make them more clear and understandable

4. Vocabulary: Your child still needs to be aware of subtle differences in speech sounds that distinguish words from one another, such as "goal" and "gold," "fresh" and "flesh." She also needs to learn prefixes and suffixes to master new words.
Reading milestones:

  • Figuring out word meanings from clues in the text
  • Using synonyms and antonyms
  • Using different parts of speech correctly, including nouns, verbs, and adjectives
Reading Comprehension
Language Arts
Milestones & Expectations
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8
Independent Reading
Reading Comprehension