What Age Should a Child Be Able to Read?

kids reading a book together

My husband and I are readers.

We have floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and baskets of books in every room. We added more books to our already prolific stash when kids came along.

The only problem we had with reading was knowing when and how to teach our children to read with us.

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What Age Should a Child Be Able to Read?

Children learn how to read in stages. Most can recognize a few letters or even small words in early preschool. For most children, fluent reading happens between the ages of 5 and 8. Some kids read earlier and some later. Kids mostly read at about the same level by age 13.

How Early Should Children Read?

It’s a funny story. Neither my husband nor I paid much attention to milestones when our first child was born.

We assumed he was on track as long as his pediatrician was happy with his development.

As my husband and I are both writers, we spent a lot of time reading with him, teaching words and generally enjoying the process. He was reading by age two and reading well by age three.

When we first met with the director of his nursery school, she asked questions about our son’s likes and dislikes. We told her that he loved to read. Her response was, “Oh, he pretends to read?”

We were confused.

We explained that no, he loves to read books. She didn’t believe us until she saw him “playing” with the books on the bookshelf. She asked him to read to her, which he did.

Afterward, he read the titles of all of the books on the shelf to her. She was stunned.

My husband and I were stunned as well. We thought our son was reading at the same level as other kids his age when in fact he was quite advanced.

She explained to us that the average age for a child to start recognizing letters is three, while a child will be in second grade before they can read a full book.

What are the Benefits of Reading?

Reading is a skill that is important to learn, though not necessarily early.

The educators I spoke with assured me that, while my son was advanced, the other kids would catch up to his reading level within just a few years.

By the end of elementary school, most would be reading at the same pace. Whether your child is a young reader or a struggling reader, the process is worthwhile.

The primary benefit of reading is education. A young child’s mind is like a sponge. The more they read, the more they learn.

Reading also provides entertainment, improves concentration, reduces stress, and encourages better sleep patterns. Reading can also teach empathy by putting the child in someone else’s shoes.

What are the Stages of Reading?

kid reading in bed

Not all children learn at the same pace. If your child doesn’t precisely follow these stages, there is probably no reason to worry.

Talk with your child’s pediatrician and any teachers to ensure your child is learning at a reasonable pace for them.

Stage 1: Infancy

Children under the age of one begin to recognize sound patterns in words. They will play with books, sometimes turn pages, and have favorite stories.

They may attempt to interact with the books by touching pictures or asking for books by name.

Stage 2: Toddlers

Most children under three will memorize parts of their favorite books and pretend to read them.

They should recognize pictures in books and show interest in writing. Some children this age will recognize words when they see them.

Stage 3: Early Preschool

Three-year-olds can sing the alphabet song, sometimes with help. They might be able to recognize some letters.

Stage 4: Late Preschool

The last year before kindergarten is when most children recognize letters and the sounds they make.

Most four-year-olds can write their own names and will recognize their names when they see them.

Stage 5: Kindergarten

Five-year-olds should be able to read and write letters and a few words. They also begin to understand that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Stage 6: Ages Six to Seven

Reading becomes much easier in the first and second grades.

Children can read shorter books, sound out words they don’t know, and understand the importance of punctuation.

Stage 7: Ages Eight and Nine

Children this age should be reading longer books with minimal or no help. They’re able to recognize mistakes when they read and self-correct.

Stage 8: Ages Nine to 13

This wide range encompasses the time when a child can fully read independently.

This is the time when the reading skills even out among peers, and everyone returns to the same level regardless of when they first began to read.

How Can I Encourage My Children to Read More?

The more books you have, the more they will want to read. If your child sees you reading, they will also want to read.

A great option is to take your child to your local library. Let them pick out the books that interest them.

PRO TIP
Please keep in mind it’s possible your child may not enjoy reading books.

At that point, it’s okay to let them read graphic novels or comic books if that’s what catches their eye.

What they read isn’t as important as that they read.

Key Takeaways

Reading starts in the early years, but the range can be pretty vast. What about you?

When did you learn to read? When did your kids start sounding out words and recognizing letters? Tell us your stories in the comments!

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