Best Age to Start Teaching Kids to Read: 5 Signs They're Ready

June 3, 2022
Blog posted June 3, 2022 by Megan Ward
Post last modified May 28, 2024

Reading is the foundation of learning, and reading comprehension skills are the gateway to learning in school and beyond.

However, reading is not a skill that can be easily learned, and it's important to start teaching kids reading as early as possible.

But how do we know when they're ready to learn to read?

In this post, we'll outline five key indicators that will help you determine when your kids are ready to begin reading.

The Importance of Early Reading

baby girl and school boy kid reading books at home

Reading is one of the most important skills a child can learn. It allows them to gain knowledge and understanding about the world around them, as well as develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Key Takeaways

  • Reading Readiness Indicators

    Identifying when a child is ready to start learning to read involves observing certain signs and behaviours. These indicators include basic letter and word recognition, ability to follow conversations, phonemic awareness, interest in books, and word-sound association.
  • Age and Learning Variability

    The age at which children begin reading varies, with most starting around 6-7 years old, although some may start as early as 4-5 years old. Reading readiness depends on individual factors like exposure to books and literacy, vocabulary, language development and prior learning experiences.
  • Parental Role in Reading Development

    Parents play a crucial role in fostering reading skills by providing a supportive environment, engaging in regular reading sessions, encouraging interest in books, and using interactive methods like sounding out letters and words.

By the time a child is able to read, they have already learned many important literacy skills such as decoding words, making sense of the text, and identifying letters and phonics.

Constant exposure to reading does not go unnoticed by early educators - including things like - having books and reading materials in the home, reading aloud, exposure in the community for example reading signs when driving in the car. Additionally, reading allows children to explore new worlds and learn about different cultures.

Signs Your Child is Ready for Reading

When do children usually learn to read? There is no single answer to this question, as reading skills can vary greatly from child to child. However, according to the National Reading Panel (NRP), most children start reading at around 6 to 7 years old. While some children learn as early as 4 to 5 years old.

Reading readiness is a term that refers to the stage of development when a child is ready to start reading. There are many factors that can influence when your child is ready to start reading, including their intelligence, vocabulary skills, and prior learning experiences.

Fortunately, there are signs that can help you determine when your child is ready to start reading.

Here are five signs your child is ready to start learning to read:

1. Your child can identify basic letters and words by sight
2. Your child can follow simple conversations in a language they know with relative fluency
3. Your child can make simple connections between letters and sounds: phonemic awareness
4. Your child shows interest in books and stories
5. Your child can identify words by their sound

1. Your child can identify basic letters and words by sight

Around the age of 3 or 4 years old, most children are able to learn to read by sounding out the words. They may still need help with some basic vocabulary, but they are starting to understand what words look like and how to put them together.

father and son reading books while lying in a tent

Reading aloud with a parent or a grown-up is an important part of learning to read. Hearing the words come out correctly and seeing the pictures on the page helps kids develop a strong reading foundation. Visual connection through image and word is essential in reading readiness. 

There is no one specific time when kids learn to read best; it varies depending on each individual child's strengths and weaknesses. However, parents can help their children develop a strong reading foundation by providing opportunities for reading, teaching them how to sound out words, and encouraging them in a positive way when they make mistakes.

2. Your child can follow simple conversations in a language they know with relative fluency

One theory suggests that kids learn to read when they start to recognize words in context. They may also be drawn to stories and characters because they understand the meanings behind the words.

Many kids also start reading fluently and with comprehension around the age of 7 or 8.

3. Your child can make simple connections between letters and sounds: phonemic awareness

The process of learning to read can be a gradual one for some children and a more rapid one for others. Regardless of when your child starts to learn to read, it is important for them to make simple connections between letters and sounds.

By working on these connections in a systematic way, your child will be able to build on their skills and progress faster in their reading development.

You can start by sounding out the letters of the alphabet and vowels with your child. 

If they can make the connections early on, they will be able to read more easily and with greater comprehension.

4. Your child shows interest in books and stories

primary student girl reading a book in library

Reading is a skill that children learn at different ages. Some children are interested in books and stories from an early age, while others may not show any interest in reading until later on in their lives. Studies have proven that early exposure to literature at an early age increases the child's motivation to learn to read and accelerates the time to learn to read. 

If your child shows an interest in books and stories, encourage them to keep developing their reading skills by providing appropriate reading materials and storybooks.

Regardless of when your child starts to develop an interest in reading, it is important for them to continue developing their reading skills throughout their childhood.

5. Your child can identify words by their sound

When your child starts learning how to read, they need to be able to identify words by their sound. This means that they need to be able to read the letters on a page and know what each letter sounds like.

Some children are better at this than others, but all children should learn how to do it before moving on to more complex reading skills such as decoding words and understanding sentence structure.

If your child struggles with identifying words by their sound, help them by reading short stories aloud and using flashcards that reinforce the key sounds in words.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best books to read to my child?

Each child will learn differently and what works for one child may not work for another. However, some popular books that are often recommended to children in the early years of learning to read include Dr Seuss novels such as, The Cat in the Hat, the Grug series, and ABC123.

As your child gets older, you may want to explore more sophisticated literature that is geared towards older readers. There are many great books available that can challenge your child's reading skills and expand their knowledge of world literature.

How can I improve my child's reading skills?

Improving reading skills is a gradual process that requires dedication from both parents and children. To get started, make sure you have scheduled regular reading sessions for your child. This will help them build up a habit of reading regularly and it will also help you track their progress. Ideally, young children should be reading aloud to a parent 4-5 times a week for at least 15 minutes each time.

Select books that they are confident reading and are not too challenging. It provides the opportunity for positive reinforcement and self esteem building. Gradually increase the difficulty as your child's confidence develops. 

Additionally, encourage your child to try different types of books and take on new, interesting topics. Also, be patient with your child as they learn to read – don’t expect them to be fluent in a short period of time.

Final Thoughts

There is no wrong time to start reading to your child. The important thing is to start reading to them as early as possible. Make sure to choose books that are interesting and appropriate for your child's age. By doing so, you will help them to develop their reading skills and have fun at the same time.

We can help your child improve their reading skills. If you'd like to read more, here's a great place to start with a guide for parents to help children with their reading skills.

We can help your child improve their reading skills

If your child is not reading at their grade level by the time they are 8 or 9 years old, we can help them improve their reading skills. We can provide supplemental instruction and support in order to help them reach their reading goals.

Our experienced English + Communication and Mathematics tutors support children from Prep to Year 10 to quickly improve their reading, comprehension, spelling, grammar, and writing.

You can book your initial consultation via the contact me link below.

This offer is strictly limited to 5 people per week. Call us today on 1300 042 633 to get started.

Post Written by

Megan Ward has over 16 years experience in working directly with children and young people experiencing challenging behaviour. having worked exclusively with families, Australian agencies and with support networks to provide advice around emotional disturbances, guidance and leadership, her the main goal is the positive behaviour alteration, family happiness and harmony. Megan's qualifications include a Bachelors Degree in Secondary Education and Fine Arts and a Masters in Special Education with a Major in Emotional and Behaviour Disturbances. Megan is the owner of a iCode School, specialising in NDIS tutoring, and support for children with learning disabilities.

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