What Reading Skills Do Kids Need to Succeed?

What Reading Skills Do Kids Need to Succeed?

It’s quiet in the house. You peek into the next room and see your son holding a book. “Are you reading an assignment for school?” you ask.

He smiles. “No, I’m done with my homework. I’m just reading for fun. Let me tell you what happened so far!”

As parents, few things fill us with the same happiness we feel in this moment. Seeing our child excited about reading brings us joy. Why?

For one, we know that learning to read is hard work. We’re proud of our children when they master the skills needed to read and understand a book. We’re aware that reading will bring them greater success.

But there’s something more going on – something deeper.

Readers have access to a world of thrilling adventures, fascinating knowledge, memorable characters, and fantastic places. We feel joy when we see our children become readers and discover this world for themselves.

In order to have this life-changing experience of getting lost in a good book, and to develop into a skilled reader and successful student, every child must go through several stages of reading development.

So, what are these stages? What do they look like? And which stage is your child in right now?

Stage 1: Pre-Reading

From the moment your child hears someone speak, he or she begins building language skills that are the foundation for learning to read. In Stage 1, which typically lasts from birth until the start of school, children discover how books and language work.

This stage is all about the building blocks of reading. Children learn the names and shapes of letters. They learn that the words they hear are made up of individual sounds. Children in this stage love playing with language, especially rhymes and nonsense words. This is all productive – your child is building an awareness of letters and sounds that he or she will need in order to learn to read.

Children in this stage can’t read yet, but they can develop a positive connection to books. When your child is in this stage, you’ll see him or her happily picking up books, playing with them, looking at the pictures, and possibly naming letters. If you read aloud to your child often, he or she will associate books with fun, warmth, and family. This will set your child up for a lifelong love of books, and it will also get him or her really excited to learn how to read in Stage 2.

Stage 2: Learning to Read

Once your child is familiar with how letters and language work, he or she is ready to learn to read.

In Stage 2, which begins in pre-school or kindergarten, children start using phonics to ‘break the code’ of written language. In other words, they learn to match letters to their sounds in order to sound out (or decode) words.

If your child is in this stage, you’ll see him or her working hard to decode short words in easy books. In fact, just about all of your child’s energy and focus will be spent on decoding words, and that’s as it should be – being “glued to print” is what this stage is all about. But, you’ll also witness the pride and triumph he or she feels from figuring out a new word or finishing a book.

It is hard work to get through an entire story when you’re reading it one. word. at. a. time. But with lots of practice, reading gets easier and easier and children start to read more smoothly as they enter Stage 3.

Stage 4: Reading for Learning & Absorption

After your child has achieved fluency – typically between late 2nd and 3rd grade – reading starts to pay off in exciting new ways. In Stage 4, two big changes happen for readers.

First, now that children have mastered basic reading skills, they shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” They are ready to use their skills to learn new information from sources like textbooks and other nonfiction. This is an exciting time for your child—reading nonfiction opens up a new world of information and ideas, and you’ll see your child exploring his or her interests and discovering new ones.  

Second – and even better – because the process of reading is now automatic, children can get fully absorbed in their reading.  During this stage, you’ll notice your child getting ‘lost’ in books. While reading, your child will actually feel like he or she is participating in the characters’ adventures. You may have to call your child’s name multiple times before he or she hears you! That is how thrilling and powerful it can be to get absorbed in a good book.

Stage 3: Developing Fluency

When your child has mastered basic decoding skills, he or she is ready to develop fluency. Children build fluency gradually during Stage 3, which usually starts around 2nd grade.

There are three key features to fluent reading: it’s accurate, it moves at a good pace, and it’s expressive.

At the beginning of this stage, you’ll hear your child trying to read out loud in the natural rhythm a person uses when speaking. You’ll hear fewer and fewer mistakes, and the reading will sound smooth, not choppy. Then, by the end of Stage 3, you won’t hear anything at all! Most children transition to silent, independent reading during this stage.

Achieving fluency will have a big impact on your child’s reading. It’s the key to strong comprehension. Children who read fluently don’t have to put as much effort into decoding words, so their minds are free to pay attention to the story. In this way, fluency acts as a bridge between decoding and comprehension. Eventually, the whole process of reading becomes second nature and your child is ready for Stage 4.

Once your child reaches Stage 4, it never ends. It’s an experience that will shape your child and have a lasting impact. But that doesn’t mean that reading development stops there.

Stage 5: Critical Reading

As students become more skilled readers, they gain a new ability to think abstractly and analytically.  At this point, your child will be ready to step back and focus not only on what he or she is reading but also on how to read it. 

Stage 5 usually begins in middle school, when reading assignments get much denser and more complex. To tackle this challenge, your son or daughter will learn new strategies that involve higher-level critical thinking, such as previewing new material, tracking main ideas, and monitoring comprehension.

Your child will also get more experience considering different points of view and forming personal opinions about what he or she reads.

Taking control of reading this way is the mark of a Stage 5 reader.  Back in Stage 4, your child gained full access to the rich and exciting world of books. Now, your child will have more and more opportunities to decide how to use the knowledge and insights found in books. He or she will continue growing into an independent reader and thinker.

Every reader is different and develops at his or her own pace. Give your child plenty of encouragement and opportunities to practice reading, and he or she will progress through the five stages and become a successful, lifelong reader who loves great books.

Understanding each stage of reading development and where your child is right now can help you provide the right support to move to the next stage.

Stay Up To Date

Subscribe to receive updates on reading programs offered in your area, and get access to more insightful articles and videos about your child’s reading development!

It’s quiet in the house. You peek into the next room and see your son holding a book. “Are you reading an assignment for school?” you ask.

He smiles. “No, I’m done with my homework. I’m just reading for fun. Let me tell you what happened so far!”

As parents, few things fill us with the same happiness we feel in this moment. Seeing our child excited about reading brings us joy. Why?

For one, we know that learning to read is hard work. We’re proud of our children when they master the skills needed to read and understand a book. We’re aware that reading will bring them greater success.

But there’s something more going on – something deeper.

Readers have access to a world of thrilling adventures, fascinating knowledge, memorable characters, and fantastic places. We feel joy when we see our children become readers and discover this world for themselves.

In order to have this life-changing experience of getting lost in a good book, and to develop into a skilled reader and successful student, every child must go through several stages of reading development.

So, what are these stages? What do they look like? And which stage is your child in right now?

Stage 1: Pre-Reading

From the moment your child hears someone speak, he or she begins building language skills that are the foundation for learning to read. In Stage 1, which typically lasts from birth until the start of school, children discover how books and language work.

This stage is all about the building blocks of reading. Children learn the names and shapes of letters. They learn that the words they hear are made up of individual sounds. Children in this stage love playing with language, especially rhymes and nonsense words. This is all productive – your child is building an awareness of letters and sounds that he or she will need in order to learn to read.

Children in this stage can’t read yet, but they can develop a positive connection to books. When your child is in this stage, you’ll see him or her happily picking up books, playing with them, looking at the pictures, and possibly naming letters. If you read aloud to your child often, he or she will associate books with fun, warmth, and family. This will set your child up for a lifelong love of books, and it will also get him or her really excited to learn how to read in Stage 2.

Stage 2: Learning to Read

Once your child is familiar with how letters and language work, he or she is ready to learn to read.

In Stage 2, which begins in pre-school or kindergarten, children start using phonics to ‘break the code’ of written language. In other words, they learn to match letters to their sounds in order to sound out (or decode) words.

If your child is in this stage, you’ll see him or her working hard to decode short words in easy books. In fact, just about all of your child’s energy and focus will be spent on decoding words, and that’s as it should be – being “glued to print” is what this stage is all about. But, you’ll also witness the pride and triumph he or she feels from figuring out a new word or finishing a book.

It is hard work to get through an entire story when you’re reading it one. word. at. a. time. But with lots of practice, reading gets easier and easier and children start to read more smoothly as they enter Stage 3.

Stage 3: Developing Fluency

When your child has mastered basic decoding skills, he or she is ready to develop fluency. Children build fluency gradually during Stage 3, which usually starts around 2nd grade.

There are three key features to fluent reading: it’s accurate, it moves at a good pace, and it’s expressive.

At the beginning of this stage, you’ll hear your child trying to read out loud in the natural rhythm a person uses when speaking. You’ll hear fewer and fewer mistakes, and the reading will sound smooth, not choppy. Then, by the end of Stage 3, you won’t hear anything at all! Most children transition to silent, independent reading during this stage.

Achieving fluency will have a big impact on your child’s reading. It’s the key to strong comprehension. Children who read fluently don’t have to put as much effort into decoding words, so their minds are free to pay attention to the story. In this way, fluency acts as a bridge between decoding and comprehension. Eventually, the whole process of reading becomes second nature and your child is ready for Stage 4.

Stage 4: Reading for Learning & Absorption

After your child has achieved fluency – typically between late 2nd and 3rd grade – reading starts to pay off in exciting new ways. In Stage 4, two big changes happen for readers.

First, now that children have mastered basic reading skills, they shift from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” They are ready to use their skills to learn new information from sources like textbooks and other nonfiction. This is an exciting time for your child—reading nonfiction opens up a new world of information and ideas, and you’ll see your child exploring his or her interests and discovering new ones.  

Second – and even better – because the process of reading is now automatic, children can get fully absorbed in their reading.  During this stage, you’ll notice your child getting ‘lost’ in books. While reading, your child will actually feel like he or she is participating in the characters’ adventures. You may have to call your child’s name multiple times before he or she hears you! That is how thrilling and powerful it can be to get absorbed in a good book.

Once your child reaches Stage 4, it never ends. It’s an experience that will shape your child and have a lasting impact. But that doesn’t mean that reading development stops there.

Stage 5: Critical Reading

As students become more skilled readers, they gain a new ability to think abstractly and analytically.  At this point, your child will be ready to step back and focus not only on what he or she is reading but also on how to read it. 

Stage 5 usually begins in middle school, when reading assignments get much denser and more complex. To tackle this challenge, your son or daughter will learn new strategies that involve higher-level critical thinking, such as previewing new material, tracking main ideas, and monitoring comprehension.

Your child will also get more experience considering different points of view and forming personal opinions about what he or she reads.

Taking control of reading this way is the mark of a Stage 5 reader.  Back in Stage 4, your child gained full access to the rich and exciting world of books. Now, your child will have more and more opportunities to decide how to use the knowledge and insights found in books. He or she will continue growing into an independent reader and thinker.

Every reader is different and develops at his or her own pace. Give your child plenty of encouragement and opportunities to practice reading, and he or she will progress through the five stages and become a successful, lifelong reader who loves great books.

Understanding each stage of reading development and where your child is right now can help you provide the right support to move to the next stage.

Stay Up To Date

Subscribe to receive updates on reading programs offered in your area, and to get access to more insightful articles and videos about your child’s reading development!

Make Next Year A BIG SUCCESS!

Make Next Year A

BIG SUCCESS!