Everything You Need to Know About Language and Literacy in 8- to 10-Year-Olds

Get ready for the age of humor, thoughtful reading, and language-driven friendships!
By MICHELLE ANTHONY, PHD and Scholastic Parents Staff
Jul 12, 2019



language and literacy

Jul 12, 2019

By the age of 8, most children have moved from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” As you have likely noticed, various aspects of development interact with and influence each other. Because a child’s language and literacy skills form the foundation of success in school, it is at this point in development that some readers begin to show significant gaps in ability. Luckily, no matter what level your child is at, you can use this time to help them thrive and succeed in both language and reading. 

Logic and Inference Skills Grow

Around third grade, children can do more than just read the words in a book. They use their comprehension skills to ask if the words make sense, and use their own personal experiences to understand the books they read and the conversations around them. 

As their comprehension skills develop, so do their inference skills. For example, when you say say, “Boy, I sure have a lot of grocery bags to unload,” kids this age understand that you’re indirectly asking them to help (even if they do turn back to their video games rather than grabbing a bag).  

Children this age can retell stories, and form and defend ideas. Understanding of cause and effect starts to take shape, as does an awareness of fact versus opinion. You can facilitate these budding skills by asking your child questions about the topic or the setting of a book before she reads it, by asking ‘why’ questions along the way, and by having open-ended discussions about topics, such as how the author’s opinion comes across in the book. 

Language Helps Them Form Friendships

Thanks in part to these new thinking and language skills, children this age are often quite chatty, which impacts their social development. For instance, they don’t interrupt as much as they used to, because they’re getting better at talking with us rather than at us.

Our kids are able to describe events in detail, categorize topics, negotiate, and order events sequentially — all skills that help form the basis of friendship. We can help our kids start their new relationships with peers off on the right foot by modeling good conversation skills. Show them how to take turns when talking, use appropriate eye contact, and build off the conversation topic at hand. 

To give them examples for how to navigate these new relationships, pick up a book that centers on strong friendships like the Ivy and Bean books, The Friendship War, or the The Baby-Sitters Club series.

Books About Friendship for 8- to 10-Year-Olds

They Talk and Write Up a Storm

Children this age should be able to produce and decode all speech sounds, including consonant blends (e.g., str-, fr-). Their knowledge of sounds is strong, and they can usually sound out unknown words easily. If your child is showing signs of speech issues, be sure to visit a doctor or speech language pathologist. “If there are lingering speech, sound, or articulation issues, we see that sometimes goes hand in hand with literacy,” explains Erin Vollmer, CCC-SLP, a speech pathologist and co-founder of TherapyWorks based in Chicago. “If you can’t hear it, you can’t pronounce it.”

Children’s spoken stories will be more complex than their written ones, but their journals will continue to show improvement. By third grade, children will add basic adjectives and adverbs to their work and can create compound sentences. They’re still working on including specific references when they speak, so don’t be surprised to find yourself asking “Who said that?” or “Which one?” when listening to one of their stories. 

Their ability to think about language and its usage in writing is getting stronger by the day. For example, they will reread a story and notice where it gets more complex, because they are reading it as if they are a reader experiencing it for the first time. Reading great books with exciting, twisting plot lines will help them practice this new skill — think Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #2: Game of Stars, the wildly popular Wings of Fire series, or of course, the Harry Potter series.

Exciting Books to Boost Reading Skills

Gaining an Appreciation for Humor

As a result of their growing language skills, children this age more fully understand double meaning (e.g., run for office, run a race), and can apply verbal humor (for instance, “Is your refrigerator running? You’d better go catch it!”). Riddles and jokes make their full appearance and can be a wonderful way to engage reluctant readers and playfully expand vocabulary. 

Lean into this silly side with playful books like the Captain Underpants series, an unexpected hero, or the adventures of Dog Man, a half-dog, half-man crime fighter. They’ll also love reading the tales of Amelia Bedelia,  who takes common phrases literally with funny results (just wait until they see what happens when she dresses a chicken!) 

Funny Titles They'll Absolutely Love

Read Out Loud Together (If They're Up for It)

If your child wants to, having them read aloud to you or even reading to them is a fantastic way to expand their language skills a little further. It allows them to practice speaking volume, flow, and punctuation, and it's great practice for future school presentations. That being said, the number one goal of your child’s reading is to have it be enjoyable! So, if they’re happiest snuggled on the couch reading by themselves, let them do their own thing. After all, we'd say any time a child is happily reading, it's a total parenting win. 


More Great Reading Resources!

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Communication and Language Development
Elementary School