At What Age Do Kids Start Reading?
Parents and caregivers often worry if the development of their children is where it should be. Whether in regards to speech, potty training, coordination, or ability to get along with others, parents frequently wonder if their child is on track, and what they should be doing to help if not.
Reading is a fundamental skill that children begin to learn very early on and hone throughout childhood and into young adulthood. However, trying to force a child to learn to read too early is typically ineffective and even counterproductive. Reading Head Start can help parents learn what is best for their children in terms of learning to read.
This article explores the stages of reading development for various ages, why parents shouldn’t pressure their children to read too early, when to worry, and how to help children with literacy skills at home. While this may sound daunting, especially if you feel like your child is not meeting their milestones, there are often simple tips and tricks that you can use to help them in a calm and gentle way. With that being said, let’s take a look at what age do kids start reading and what you can do to help them along the learning process.
When Should Children Be Reading?
There is a common misconception that the earlier you teach your child to read, the smarter they are or the better their performance will be in school. But studies show, and reading experts agree, that forcing a child to learn to read can be ineffective and damaging to their overall learning.
Children start their journey of learning to read once they start making sounds and learning words, even if they haven’t yet been introduced to printed material. Part of reading is sounding out words and connecting sounds to written material. The stages of reading development are roughly as follows:
- The emerging pre-reader (ages 6 months-6 years)
- The novice reader (ages 6-7 years)
- The decoding reader (ages 7-9 years)
- The fluent and comprehending reader (ages 9-15 years)
- The expert reader (ages 16 years and older)
This does not mean your child should be reading at six months old. Each stage has its own benchmarks, and most children do not connect printed words to their correct sounds and meanings until stage 2 or 3. So by those standards, your child should be reading at least some words by first grade.
Why Parents Shouldn’t Push Their Children to Read Too Early
Parents want what’s best for their children, and many think that learning to read “early” will give their children an advantage at school. While it is important that parents take an active role in the education of their children, and there are many things parents can do to support literacy at home, most gimmicks and products designed to teach babies and very young children to read do not work and can even be harmful to a child’s reading development.
Forcing children to read too early can have a number of consequences. First and foremost, it usually doesn’t work. The above stages of reading development are assigned at least partially due to child brain development at each age. Young children are already learning how to speak, move, and interact with the world around them. Reading will come in time once other vital skills are mastered.
Second, forcing reading too early before a child is ready can be confusing and discourage the child from reading in the future. It is thought that parents try to teach their children to read too young out of mounting pressure and competition, both among parents and in the academic world. Reading experts suggest that parents wanting their children to start reading too young is more to ease the worries of the parents rather than for the benefit of the child.
What Parents Can Do at Home to Support Literacy
Just because it’s not recommended that parents attempt to teach their children to read too young doesn’t mean there isn’t anything parents can — and should — do to help children develop early reading skills. Parents need to be aware of the stages of reading development listed above, and how each stage includes aspects of reading that are not necessarily simply picking up a book and learning which words mean what.
Studies show that children learn best through play rather than a strict school environment. Learning beginner reading skills at home can give children the advantage that parents are seeking to give their children once they start formal education. To prepare children for reading at school, parents can take the following steps at home.
Connect words to daily life experiences
Connecting words to meaning and daily interactions introduce children to the concept of letters and written material. For example, when walking children through the grocery store, you could point to the letters or words on the labels of their favorite foods. That way the child starts to recognize what writing is and that letters and words have connected meanings.
Read aloud to your child at home
This may be an obvious one, but can go overlooked. Parents may overthink this one, assuming that they should be teaching their children how to read and follow along every time they take out a storybook. But simply reading aloud to your child, and especially giving them a wide variety of books to choose from and letting them select their favorites, is a great way to bond with your child and introduce them to the concept of reading.
Go to the library
Taking your children to the library opens them up to a world of reading and learning, and a wide selection of reading material. You may be surprised at what your child chooses to read. Unless it has content inappropriate for children, encourage whatever topics your child may want to pursue reading about.
Parents can also check out Reading Head Start for more tips and information on child literacy. This platform is full of useful information that can help you get hold of vital tools that could help your child or students with reading.