When your child begins to read it can be tempting to keep pushing them to read bigger and more complicated books. Don’t. Make sure they have mastered each level before they move up. Your child’s teacher can guide you on this but if you want to see where they are at, try this clever Macmillan Reader’s Level test online.
Help your child to complete the range of vocabulary and grammar-based questions that have been graded from Starter to Upper Intermediate level. After each series of question you will be advised what level they’re at, and when you get the final result you can link to graded readers in the Let’s Read! series that are suitable for each level. For a further understanding of reading skills per age, look at the reading stages below.
The 5 Stages of Reading
Think of your child learning to read as a journey that starts at birth. According to author Maryanne Wolf in her book Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, there are 5 stages of reading.
Please note that some schooling systems start teaching reading from age 4, while others wait until they are older. Research what you feel is best for your child. Also remember not all children will fit these stages perfectly, but if you are concerned, chat to your child’s teacher or paediatrician. Early intervention is key in helping children who struggle to read. And limit screen time – which in our experience is the biggest deterrent to children picking up reading skills today.
The Emergent pre-reader – usually between 6 months and 6 years old.
In this beginning stage children are exposed to words, sounds, images, print material, concepts and language. This is part of their normal development, but you can make an effort to engage with them with different visual mediums. Have conversations and surround them with books to inspire and peak their curiosity. They will learn best on your lap. By age 6 they will understand thousands of words but are able to read very few of them. (Again this depends on your child’s schooling choice).
The Novice reader – usually between 6 to 7 years old.
In this stage, children learn the relationships between letters and sounds and between printed and spoken words. Short books with high frequency and phonically regular words are used and children learn to sound out new one-syllable words. They learn to use pictures and context to work out new words. By the end of stage 2 many children can understand up to 4000 words and read up to 600 words.
The Decoding Reader – usually between 7 – 9 years old
In this stage most children can read simple, familiar stories with increasing fluency. They are still being read to at a level higher than their own reading level, which encourages their language development, vocabulary and conceptual understanding. This stage is important for consolidating the foundations of decoding, sight vocabulary and meaning in the books they read.
The Fluent, Comprehending reader – usually between 9 – 15 years old
Reading is now all about reading for meaning and comprehension. This is often the stage at which a child who can read but not comprehend and understand what they are reading, falls behind. Encourage your child to practice comprehension monitoring: reading a word, sentence, or paragraph a second time to understand it correctly. Reading now allows children to learn new skills, acquire new ideas and knowledge and explore issues from multiple perspectives.
“Even when a reader comprehends the facts of the content, the goal at this stage is deeper: an increased capacity to apply an understanding of the varied uses of words – irony, voice, metaphor, and point of view – to go below the surface of the text.” (Wolf)
The Expert Reader – usually from age 16 and up.
This is when reading as a life skill comes into its own. Now young adults are reading from a range of material, both expository and narrative and with multiple narratives. Comprehension skills reach their peak and keep growing throughout life, inspired by reading a wide range of books.
Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. (2008)
Jeanne S. Chall, Stages of Reading Development. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1983.
Check out her more in-depth reading stages on the left, from Meagan’s Teaching Blog.