Reading Milestones for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Graders

Here’s what to expect during these years, and how to help your child thrive at every age and stage.

By Scholastic Parents Staff
Sep 03, 2020




Sep 03, 2020

As your child moves into the upper elementary school years, they are increasingly focused on reading to learn new subjects and materials. Here are some of the milestones kids might normally reach in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.

By the end of 3rd grade, your child may be able to:

1. Identify the meaning of common prefixes (un-, ex-) and suffixes (-full, -less)
2. Be able to read and pronounce nearly any common word
3. Describe the relationship between events, concepts, or steps in a process
4. Read social studies and science content containing familiar words and concepts
5. Identify an author’s point of view
6. Justify their own idea from a text by using evidence from the text as support
7. Write paragraphs

By the end of 4th grade, your child may be able to:

1. Read with accuracy and fluency (not stumbling over words)
2. Self-correct after mispronouncing a word
3. Be able to look for meaning in historical, scientific, and technical texts
4. Compare and contrast two or more accounts of the same event
5. Describe the theme, character, setting, and point of view in a story

By the end of 5th grade, your child may be able to:

1. Quote from what they read to help support their understanding
2. Summarize what they read and state the main idea or theme
3. Compare stories to each other
4. Be able to describe causes and effects as described in a reading
5. Read and understand literature, poetry, and drama
6. Use adjectives, transition words, and phrases in writing

Marissa Fraser, an elementary school teacher in Danbury, Connecticut, notes that starting around third grade, children’s reading levels may vary depending on the type of book they’re reading. 

“Kids at this age start to learn that if a book covers a subject they already have some knowledge about, it’s easier to read than a book about a topic they know nothing about,” says Fraser. If your 10-year-old who loves video games drags their feet with some chapter books but can’t get through the Press Start! books fast enough, then you’ve seen this concept in action.

What to Do If They’re Having Trouble

“By the end of 3rd grade, a child should be reading fluently,” says Fraser. If your child ends the school year and is still struggling to read aloud, Fraser recommends sticking to upper grade books to hold your child’s interests, but giving gentle reminders of lower-grade strategies.

For instance, tactics like sounding out words, looking at surrounding words in the text for context clues, and breaking larger words into smaller pieces can help. 

Of course, checking in with your child’s teacher is also crucial to make sure you’re both on the same page with how to support your child’s reading progress. “Ask the teacher for some book examples to guide you on what they should be reading,” says Fraser. “You may be surprised!” 

Find out more about what reading milestones to expect in our reading guide for ages 8-10. And, for more tips on finding books at the right level for your child, visit our guide on reading levels for kids.

Shop the best books for kids in grades 3 to 5 below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store

Reading Comprehension
Milestones & Expectations
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8
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Reading Comprehension