When Do Kids Learn to Read? What the Science Says

You want your child to learn to read, but you don’t know what’s the best way.

when do kids learn to read? Should they be taught phonics or sight words first? Is there a perfect age for children to learn how to read and write?

We’ve compiled research from multiple sources and put it all together in one place so you can make an informed decision on when is the best time for your child to start reading.

when do kids learn to read?

when do kids learn to read?

When do kids learn to read?

When do kids learn to read? The answer to this question is highly individual and depends on a number of factors. The sooner you start your child in reading, the more likely she will be a successful reader, but there’s no reason not to wait until your child shows an interest in learning how to read and write before beginning instruction.

Experts say about When do kids learn to read that most children learn to read by age 6 or 7, but some say that you can teach a 4-year old to read if she has the right foundation in phonics. Let’s dig into our research and find out when kids learn to read, what are the best techniques for teaching children to read, how much time should be spent learning to read each day, and more.

Reading Milestones in Early Grades

In the early grades, you can observe your child’s reading progress by looking for age-appropriate milestones. By learning a few key terms and techniques, you’ll be able to see if your child is on track for becoming a strong reader.

Here are some examples of the types of milestones that young children should reach as they become proficient readers:

  • 6 year olds should understand that print carries meaning. When they encounter text, they know to look at the pictures and read aloud what’s written in order to figure out the story.
  • 7 year olds should be able to identify upper case letters, lower case letters, and words. They should understand how print is organized on a page (from left to right and top to bottom) and that words are made up of individual sounds.
  • 8 year olds should understand the concept of sentence structure (namely, what makes a sentence complete). They may also be able to read age-appropriate chapter books independently.
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Why kids might have trouble learning to read?

Why kids might have trouble learning to read?

Why kids might have trouble learning to read?

  • Inability to discriminate between sounds
  • Inability to recognize specific letter-sound correspondence
  • Inability to process the phonetic units which make up words.

What helps kids learn to read?

Phonics instruction. This lays the foundation for children to recognize the combination of letters and sounds that make up words, which is critical if they are ever going to decode text.

Pictures. Young children learn best by seeing images, colors, textures, etc.

Physical activity. Learning new information through sensory experiences helps people learn more thoroughly than through purely auditory and visual experiences.

Bonding with parents. It’s more difficult for kids to learn without a strong support system of family and teachers who encourage them on their journey to literacy success.

How Reading Is Taught? What are the best reading techniques & methods?

How Reading Is Taught? What are the best reading techniques & methods?

How Reading Is Taught? What are the best reading techniques & methods?

Phonics is considered by many experts as the best way for children learn how to read. It is almost impossible for a child who is not already familiar with the sounds of the letters to read any new words using sight words or pictures, so it is important that parents teach their children phonics before they start learning how to read.

The most effective way to teach reading for children ages 5 to 7 is through phonemic awareness, which means helping kids hear and identify the individual sounds in words.

Parents can use simple activities, such as asking their children to identify the beginning sound in a word and then teach them how to blend those sounds together into different word families. Some common examples of phonemic awareness include:

Matching Beginning Sounds with Objects—Take an object and write one letter on it to represent its beginning sound. Your child can then match the object with another object that begins with the same sound. For example, you could write the letter m on a marble and the letter g on a gumball.

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Making Words Out of Dice—Have your child roll two dice and say the word they land on. If they land on tree, have them come up with a word that rhymes with tree, such as flea.

Sorting Shapes by Sound—Give your child a bowl of alphabet blocks and have them sort the letters into groups based on the beginning sound they make. For example, if you gave them an r block, ask them to find other words that begin with the same sound.

How Parents Can Help Teach Reading?

Parents can help their child learn to read in many ways, including:

Reading aloud with them —Children who are read to frequently at a young age tend to be better readers when they get older. Not only will you spend time together and form a strong connection, but the images and stories contained in books also give children something to connect with while learning to read.

Have your child say the sounds along with you —This helps children learn letter-sound correspondence and may help solidify what they are hearing in their mind.

Give your child books about topics that interest them —If there is a particular animal or type of transportation that your child loves, find out if there are any easy readers about it. You can also take your child to the library or bookstore and let them pick out books they are interested in.

Teach phonics —Phonics is, by far, the most effective way to help kids learn how to read. Start by teaching children the sounds that letters make, then move onto teaching sight words or simple text that they can read with little or no help. Once your child knows how to sound out letters, they will be able to decode text and read words on their own.

What Factors Influence Learning?

Kids who are taught how to read will learn faster than kids who are not. That’s the easy part.

The factors that impact when a child is ready for reading instruction are more complex. These include verbal ability, exposure to print, comprehension, motivation and motor skills.

Verbal Ability: The most important piece of learning to read is being able to understand and communicate verbally. Kids who have a larger verbal and vocabulary repertoire will learn to read faster than kids who don’t talk or use words as frequently.

Exposure to Print: Even before your child starts learning how to read, she should be surrounded by print. Books of all shapes and sizes should be within easy reach, and your child should have a lot of opportunities to point at and talk about the pictures.

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Comprehension: The ability to understand what you have read is separate from vocabulary size, but it’s critical for being able to learn how to read. Kids who are not yet speaking in sentences or who have trouble following along in a story should wait until they’ve mastered these pre-reading skills before beginning formal lessons.

Motivation: Kids who are highly motivated to learn how to read will be more successful than kids who don’t really care or aren’t very interested. Since motivation varies from child to child, it’s important for parents and teachers to find ways of drawing children into the learning process.

Motor Skills: Many of the early literacy learnings involve fine motor skills. Kids who have difficulty controlling a pencil or crayon may need some extra time before they’re ready to begin formal instruction.


Can most 3 year olds read?

Most 3 year olds can learn to recognize a few words by sight, but those words are usually highly related to their life experiences. Most children won’t be reading at grade level until after age 5 or 6.

Can 1 year olds read?

Your baby can actually learn to read beginning at 3 months of age. They won’t read full sentences for a couple years, but they will likely be able to flip through books and identify pictures.

Is it too late for my 8 year old to learn how to read?

No. Lots of kids who start learning to read later than their peers catch up quickly once they’ve mastered the basics. Kids who fall behind will have an easier time catching up if they get the right kind of help.

Should my 2 year old be reading?

It isn’t likely that your child will understand enough about concepts like letters and sounds at 2 years old, but many kids this age are eager to learn new things. Some children really love learning new words and will start sounding out letters long before they understand the meaning of those words.

What should a 2 year old be able to count to?

Kids can count to 10 with ease by the time they’re 2.

Bottom Line

When do kids learn to read. Age isn’t the only factor that impacts how quickly a child learns to read. Some kids are simply ready earlier than others, and it’s up to parents and teachers to help them get the best possible start.

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