As your child moves into the upper elementary school years, they go from learning how to read to using their reading skills to learn. Here, we'll give you intel on some of the important milestones that you can expect in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. Plus, find out how to determine if your child is reading at grade level — and how to help if they’re not.
By the end of 3rd grade, your child will be expected 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 will be expected 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 will be expected to:
1. Quote from what he reads to help support his understanding
2. Summarize what she reads 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, transitions words, and phrases in writing
Marissa Fraser, an elementary school teacher in Danbury, Conn., 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 his feet with some chapter books but can’t get through the Diary of a Minecraft Zombie 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 what your child's reading level is and for some book examples to guide you on what they should be reading,” says Fraser. “You may be surprised!” (Here are some great resources for every grade.)