When do Kids Learn to Read?
How Kids Learn to Read
Language and literacy development begins at very early ages of childhood development, and there is a natural progression of developing reading and literacy skills as the child grows older. Here, we will briefly describe the process of when and how kids learn to read in a general sense and timeline, and explain the progression from emergent literacy to conventional literacy with some general timelines.
"Emergent literacy" is used to describe the reading and writing behavior that precedes the development of conventional literacy skills. This is a process where young children and small kids learn to read and become literate.
"Conventional literacy" is a term used to describe individuals who can read and write in ways that conform to standard practices and uses of grammar and punctuation.
So how do kids learn to read?
As early as the first few months after birth, a baby's experience with the spoken language begins to develop the foundation for later literacy development and success. A child's exposure to oral language in this early time period plays a critical role in their subsequent development. By the time the baby becomes a toddler at 2 or 3 years old, they will have typically acquired the skill and ability to speak clearly and convey their thoughts and ideas in an understandable manner. For parents who are keen on helping their children develop to their fullest potential, they can begin early reading practices at this age, and children as young as 2 can learn to become fluent readers.
Side note: You may find it hard to believe that kids as young as 2 years old can learn to read. However, please watch the short videos below, and see what is possible.
By age 3 and 4, small kids will try to "read" their favorite books by themselves. They focus on gathering the story from the pictures and weave together a story by progressing from picture to picture. Children at this age will also try to imitate writing by making scribbles. By age 5 and 6, kids enter school and begin some basic formal lessons in literacy development, and most children at this age are considered emergent readers. The growth and development in their literacy and reading ability grows rapidly during this time.
By grade 1, many children begin to transition from emergent literacy to conventional literacy. Some will progress faster, while others slower, and this is a continuous process such that there isn't a discreet level for each stage of development. Kids learning reading in grade one become early readers and are able to apply some phonetic values to their reading and engage in some decoding activities. By grade two, kids learning reading are considered transitional readers. They display better phonetic knowledge, have more independence when reading, and are able to recognize a large number of commonly used words.
By the time they enter third grade, kids should become fluent readers, and have developed some ability to read a variety of texts - including unfamiliar words. With better reading and decoding ability, the fluent readers are able to read for meaning and more of their brain capacity is now devoted to understanding what they are reading rather than trying to decode and recognize words.
The above briefly describes a progression of how kids learn to read starting at the very first few months of life up to developing some fluent reading skills in grade 3.
Did you know that...
As the above described might be the progress you see in a typical child, what about that of a child who learns to read by 2 years old - as what you just saw in the video above of our 2 year 11 months old daughter. While that might seem impressive, by the time she was 4 years old, she was reading beyond a grade 3 level. Some may dismiss this simply as an exceptionally bright child with bright mental capacities; however, my belief is that learning to read at an early age has done wonders to stimulate her intellectual and cognitive development. At the time of this writing, we have also taught our 2nd child, a boy, to read at a similar level as his sister before he turned 3 years old.
The literacy development of a child grows and flourishes from the interactions with loving parents and repeated exposure to literacy materials - the best of which are children's storybooks. Your child's development of literacy skills is greatly influenced by your efforts, and if you think that only very bright children can learn to read at a young age, or that you would simply wait until your child learns to read at school, then you REALLY need to think it over, because your child's future success depends on you making the active, conscious choice of teaching them to read... NOW.