Let’s talk about something that’s close to every parent’s heart – measuring your child’s reading progress. As a former elementary school teacher turned book matchmaker, I know how crucial it is for busy moms like you to identify reading milestones on your child’s reading journey.

Reading Milestones by Age: Navigating Your Child's Reading Journey written by The Miraculous Journey of Books at BrittanyDahl.com. Image of three children in brightly colored shirts, holding books and smiling big.

Why Measure Reading Progress?

In the whirlwind of parenting, it’s easy to lose track of time and wonder, “Is my child making progress in their reading skills?” Understanding and measuring their progress doesn’t have to be a daunting task. It’s more about celebrating the small victories and nurturing a love for reading.

At What Age Should a Child Know How to Read?

There is not a hard and fast answer to this question. It has been debated over for a long time, in fact. According to the National Reading Panel, kids begin to read around the ages of 6 or 7. Some children might begin reading at an earlier age.

Determining whether or not your child is ready to learn to read is important, and there are a number of specific signs that you can identify. I would strongly encourage you not to rush this process. Set your child up for success by reading aloud to them and helping them to enjoy stories. (This read aloud time also exposes them to new vocabulary, good fluency, and how to properly pronounce many words.) Once they have developed the right readiness skills, they will be able to learn to read more easily. Forcing them to read too early, can turn them off from the enjoyment that reading has to offer.

Identify the Reading Milestones

Just like every child is unique, their reading journeys are too. Again, instead of focusing on strict benchmarks, let’s look at some general reading milestones that can guide you:

Early Exploration (Ages 0-3)

  • What to Look For: Curiosity about books, turning pages, and pointing to pictures.
  • Your Role: Introduce colorful, interactive board books and make reading a bonding experience.

Your main goal at this stage is to share positive interactions with books. For some kids, it might mean letting them stack the books into a tall tower. My son often enjoyed building a road out of the books and seeing how far they would stretch across our house. It’s easy to think that Reading with a Toddler Looks Like a Disaster, but it’s actually helping them to build a healthy reading routine, which will set them up for future success.

Read this article to learn what to expect in these early years, including the incredible importance of reading to babies and toddlers, and how you can encourage your child to fall in love with books.

Emergent Readers (Ages 4-6)

  • What to Look For: Recognizing letters and basic words, attempting to read simple sentences.
  • Your Role: Choose beginner books with repetitive patterns to boost confidence and encourage them to read aloud.

At this stage, you are still striving towards helping your child to fall in love with reading. You will spend an enormous amount of time reading aloud to them because this will model fluent reading and also help them to learn to pronounce vocabulary words properly.

Find books that are fun, engaging, and interactive to help keep their attention. Another benefit to interactive books is that they help to build a child’s fine motor skills, which is still important at this age. Some of my favorite books that build fine motor skills are from PaperPie.

Growing Independence (Ages 7-9)

  • What to Look For: Reading with fluency, understanding the meaning of words, and exploring diverse genres.
  • Your Role: Provide a variety of books that align with their interests, and discuss the stories to enhance comprehension.

As your children navigate the wonderful world of independent reading between ages 7-9, it’s crucial to keep the read-aloud tradition alive. Even though they’re becoming more independent readers, their listening comprehension outpaces their independent reading comprehension until around 8th grade (Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook).

This is the prime time to introduce captivating book series, providing a bridge between their current skills and the more complex stories they’ll encounter later. Don’t forget about graphic novels – they’re fantastic for engaging those voracious readers as well as reluctant readers, challenging their brains with a delightful blend of text and illustration. Also, begin to share with them how to find that perfect “good fit” book. This is a skill they’ll carry throughout their reading journey.

Tween Readers (Ages 10-12)

  • What to Look For: Tackling longer novels, expressing opinions about characters and themes.
  • Your Role: Encourage critical thinking by asking open-ended questions about the books they’re reading.

The tween years in the world of reading milestones brings some new challenges as your young readers tackle longer novels and start expressing opinions about characters and themes. It becomes important to engage in meaningful discussions about the books they’re diving into. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to read the books to talk about them!) Encouraging these conversations not only enhances their critical thinking skills but also provides a space for them to articulate their thoughts and perspectives. It can also open up meaningful discussions about more personal matters. What parent doesn’t want to get to know their tween a little better?

Practical Tips for Busy Moms

1. Create a Reading Routine

Life gets hectic, but dedicating even 15 minutes a day to reading can make a significant impact. Whether it’s bedtime stories or a quick chapter before dinner, consistency is key. But don’t get hung up if you skip a day or so. Any time reading together is important and special.

2. Celebrate Effort, Not Just Results

Instead of focusing solely on the finished book, celebrate the effort your child puts into reading. Whether it’s trying out new words or attempting longer sentences, every step counts. Taking this approach will also help you to focus on small wins, noticing the little things your child has accomplished on their reading journey.

3. Be a Reading Role Model

Show your child that reading is a lifelong pleasure by letting them see you enjoy books. I often have my book sitting near the sofa and I often read outside while my kids play on their playground in the backyard. Another way to model good reading is to make trips to the library a family affair. Over the past few years, I have read some incredible books.

4. Adapt to Their Pace

Every child moves at their own pace. If they’re passionate about a particular topic, embrace it and read some more books about it! It’s all part of fostering a love for learning.

Reading Milestones

Remember, measuring progress isn’t about ticking off boxes—it’s about nurturing a lifelong love for reading. Enjoy the journey with your little bookworms as they accomplish each of the reading milestones, and feel free to reach out if you ever need a personalized book recommendation tailored to your child’s unique interests. Happy reading!