Reading Development Milestones
Literacy is one of the greatest gifts a person could receive. - Jen Salinsky
Yet literacy is not god-gifted, but received from one's parents, teachers, role model influencers and self! Little ones learn best on the bedrock of inquisitiveness! Learning to read happens in stages, and parents must continuously track reading progress, provide the right resources and continuous encouragement to help their kids discover the joy of reading- a lifelong joy!
Milestone 1: The curious toddler (up to 3 years old):
Even before formal education begins, a child learns to pick up letters, words, language, and syntax; often correlating it well with pictures. For example a toddler may be able to recognize "A" when he sees "apple". He may recognize that a word or sentence has parts which can be broken down. Learning to read is primarily by listening and speaking syllables and simple sentences, and correlation with the written word may not happen instantly. However, this stage lays the foundation of recognizing the written word and its pictorial associations. Bedtime picture-story books work great as you introduce new words and sentences in an fun, encouraging and gentle manner. Check out these reading recommendations.
Milestone 2: The emerging pre-reader at pre-school (3- 6 years old):
Your curious toddler now turns into a chatty little being. By now she can understand more words (~1000 words) than what she can read. The child often starts imitating the learnings of Milestone 1 and pretending to read by imitating word and sentence pronunciations heard before. They are able to recognize word and sentence formations better, and know the difference between random doodles and real words and letters. Pre-schoolers may also notice that some words sound the same at their beginnings and ends i.e. rhymes. Delight in the joy of your child picking his or her favorite book. Continue reading to your child to encourage this newfound interest. But do not limit yourself to books, make your child realize that reading is a part of daily life. Read out, signs, labels, the name of his or her favorite cereal, etc. Play fun games that require letter or sound recognition. These are great means to develop text awareness and fuel and pique your child's curiosity levels. Here are some reading recommendations for this age.
Milestone 3: The novice reader (6 to 7 years old):
This is when the child decodes literary relationships and concepts such as letters versus sounds (phonetics), printed versus spoken word, what letters stand for etc. The child will be able to notice if a mistake has been made, for example, if "bin" is used instead of "pin". The child is able to read simple text that contains high frequency words and phonically regular words, especially those that are previously heard. The child can now understand up to ~6000 words and read ~600 words. So introduce higher level reading content on varied topics. Practice letter-sound-sight relationships using sight-word learning books, such as Dr. Seuss' books. "Green Eggs and Ham" is a classic example that includes engaging characters, repetitive phrases, and rhyme words to help beginners learn well. Also try and introduce phonetics-learning during this stage.
Milestone 4: The decoding reader (7 - 9 years old):
The child gains significant fluency in reading content that's familiar, by confirming the learnings of Stage 2. The child can now correlate written text with previously acquired language and life learnings. The concept of context is understood and applied in this stage, making reading speedy and meaningful. This stage is all about "reading to gain world knowledge". Learning happens not just by reading but through discussions, Q&A, writing and other allied activities. Educational psychologist, Michael Pressley, stated that fluent comprehension results from two things- (a) explicit instruction by a child's teachers in major content areas and (b) the child's self-desire to read. Reading comprehension is generally the same as listening comprehension. Therefore, parents should introduce the child to simple one-dimensional viewpoints through diverse materials like textbooks, simple novels or fiction books, newspapers, magazines etc. Also, help build vocabulary by introducing new words and their context and usage.
Milestone 5: The fluent, comprehending reader (9 - 15 years old):
This is a shift from simple, one-dimensional viewpoints to multi-faceted, diverse and deep views. The child is now able to decode layers of information and comprehend complex reading materials fully. The purpose of reading evolves from "reading for knowledge" to "reading for life". Moreover, at this stage, reading comprehension generally outwits listening comprehension. Parents must encourage multitude of thoughts and opinions by making the child do creative writing and by discussing various viewpoints. Encourage reading as a means to explore and form opinions.
In truth, reading development goes much beyond these five stages. That's because reading is an ongoing learning process, with no end. It is a story of lifelong learning that makes man a continuous work towards excellence. As they say, reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body. As a parent you can much in cultivating healthy and curious minds, through the world of books!
For more developmental activities, brain building ideas and reading recommendations, download the KinderPass app now.
Chall, Jeanne. 1983. Stages of Reading Development. New York: McGraw Hill.
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