School-Age Readers

School-Age Readers

Lea este articulo en Espanol

Listening and Learning

From kindergarten through third grade, a child's ability to read grows by leaps and bounds. Although teachers provide lots of help, parents continue to play a very important role in their child's reading development.

Kids who are first learning to read get more information from listening to books read aloud than from reading them independently. This is especially true for vocabulary development — kids will learn much more about what words mean by hearing books read aloud and discussing new words with their parents than from reading on their own.

As your child's reading skills improve, he or she will begin to read independently. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should stop reading to your child. Reading aloud together can help build vocabulary, improve reading skills, and foster a sense of closeness between you and your child. Encourage discussion about characters and share your reactions to books to help reinforce the connection between what you read and everyday life.

Your Growing Reader

Here's how reading usually progresses from kindergarten to third grade:

Kindergarten. This is the time when most kids begin learning to read. By the end of the school year they will probably know most letters and their sounds, be able to match words with the same beginning or ending sounds, and read/write several simple words. They might be able to read simple text as well.

First grade. In this year, most kids learn to read many more words. They sound out words with a variety of phonics patterns, recognize a growing list of words by sight, and connect meaning to the words and sentences they read. Most first-graders can read simple books independently by the end of the school year.

Second and third grade. Kids in second and third grade continue to learn more phonics patterns and sight words for reading and spelling, read aloud more expressively and fluently, use reading to discover more about the world around them, and perhaps show a preference for specific authors and types of books. You'll likely start to see a shift as your child begins to focus his/her energy on learning new information from text. Ideally, children at this age have learned how to read, and are now reading to learn.

If you have concerns about your child's reading level at any time, talk to your child's teacher, school counselor, and doctor. Kids who are not making good reading progress might have a reading disability, such as dyslexia. With the right educational help, most kids can become readers, but identifying the problem and addressing it early will bring about the best results.

What to Read

As your child becomes a more confident reader, continue to introduce a wide range of books. When it comes to reading aloud, look for two types of books — those that could be read alone and those that are above your child's current independent reading level. With this mix, your child can re-read some of these books independently, while you'll have to do the reading (or at least help) with the challenging ones that allow your child to enjoy a more sophisticated story and learn new words.

Let your child's interests lead the way when you are choosing books. Sports? Music? Dinosaurs? Look for books on topics you know are of interest and ones that relate to these things. For example, if you know your child is interested in whales, look for books that talk about famous explorers or historical fiction set on whaling boats. As your child gets older, you will find that he or she enjoys increasingly complex books that can each about the world and introduce social and ethical issues.

Talk about the books your child is reading independently and for school and about favorite topics and authors. If the author has written a series of books, encourage your child to read them all. Some kids enjoy keeping a checklist of favorite authors' books.

Other types of books kids might like include:

Another way to grab your child's interest is to pick books that have a personal connection. Introduce your childhood favorites and talk about why you love them. Kids may also like to read junior versions of the same magazines you read.

When and How to Read

The school-age child's schedule can be a busy one. You may be having dinner on the go as you scoot from soccer practice to music lessons. But if you can find 30 minutes a day to read with your child, you will help ensure future reading success. Even if 30 minutes isn't possible, remember that any time you spend reading is better than no time at all.

Use the same strategies you did when your child was younger — talk about what you read before, during, and after, asking open-ended questions that encourage your child to have a conversation with you. Read expressively and with enjoyment.

But at this age, it's important to let your child read to you. You might choose to take turns reading ("You read a page, then I'll read a page," etc.). To help with less familiar words, you can "practice" them in advance by having your child point to the words you say on a given page, or even in a specific line of text.

If your child is reading and comes to an unfamiliar word, encourage skipping it and reading the rest of the sentence, then thinking about what word would make sense in that context ("What do you think would work in this sentence?"). Be careful not to correct every error your child makes, as this will be frustrating for both of you. If your child seems discouraged or frustrated while reading, you can offer to take over.

If you're reading a longer chapter book, here are some tips for maintaining your child's interest:

Making Time to Read

Reading aloud isn't the only way to encourage kids to read. There are plenty of opportunities during day-to-day life, like cooking together and having your child read you the recipe. Or when you play a new game, ask your child to read the directions aloud.

You might invite kids to participate in your family's vacation planning by having them read through brochures or magazines about a potential destination and highlighting things of interest.

Buy a children's dictionary so your kids can look up definitions of new words, and help them look for answers to questions in an encyclopedia or online. When using the Internet, help your kids learn to question and think critically about the information found online.

Kids should have a library card and lots of opportunities to use it. Let yours make selections or ask the librarian for help finding books.

As your child gets older and spends less time every day with you, reading together can continue to be a way for you to connect on a daily basis. Talking about what you've read gives you a window into your child's imagination and thoughts about the world.

Reviewed by: Carol A. Quick, EdD
Date reviewed: May 2013

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2015 KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and

Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
OrganizationInternational Dyslexia Association (IDA) IDA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study and treatment of dyslexia.
Web SiteReading Is Fundamental Founded in 1966, RIF is the oldest and largest children's and family nonprofit literacy organization in the United States.
OrganizationAssociation for Library Service to Children A division of the American Library Association. Our members are dedicated to creating a better future for children through libraries.
Web SiteNemours BrightStart! This literacy program prepares young children to read. Take the reading readiness screener to see if your preschooler's pre-reading skills are on track. Get tips and ideas for reading aloud, and learn about games, songs, and other tools that can help your child on the path to success.
Web SiteReadWriteThink Parent and afterschool resources.
Related Articles
Finding the Right Read Books make great gifts for kids. Here's how to pick one to fit a child's interests, maturity, and reading level.
Reading Resources Regardless of your child's age or reading level, almost every community has programs and resources that are helpful.
Everyday Reading Opportunities Finding time to read is important to developing literacy skills. And there are many easy and convenient ways to make reading a part of every day.
Raising a Summer Reader Kids' reading skills don't have to grow cold once school's out. Here are some ways to make reading a natural part of their summer fun.
Reading Milestones This general outline describes the milestones on the road to reading and the ages at which most kids reach them.
How to Pick a Great Book to Read If you find yourself overwhelmed when choosing a book, check out these 5 simple steps to picking a book you'll like.
Helping Your Gradeschooler With Homework During grade school, kids start getting homework to reinforce and extend classroom learning and teach them important study skills. Here's how parents can help.
Developments Developments
Sign up for enewsletter
Get involved Get involved
Discover ways to support Akron Children's