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Literacy skills are known as one of the most valuable set of skills a child can have. And they start developing early! Following along with the expected language and literacy milestones across ages can help you gage what level your child seems to be at currently, and what concepts to work on at home to continue growing their skills. Here are a few of the expected concepts to be gained during the early years of a child’s life (according to the U.S. Department of Education, most are reading by age 7!).

Birth to 3 years-old

  • Hold and play with books.
  • Produce “jargon” (their own “language”!) to imitate adults reading books or conversing.
  • Share books with adults. (Tip: start making this part of your child’s bedtime routine at this age!)
  • Understand that pictures represent real objects. (At age 2, your child should be able to point to pictures of familiar objects that you name).
  • Name/label pictures in books.
  • Start noticing print/letters, like the letters within their own name.

Ages 3-4

  • Engage in rhyming games (Tip: Point out rhyme pairs in books. Dr Seuss books are great for working on rhyming!)
  • Start matching some letters and sounds.
  • Describe actions of the characters in books.
  • Pretend to “read” books. (Even if your child makes up his or her own words to a story, this is a great skill that encourages your child to formulate language!).

Age 5

  • Print knowledge becomes more advanced. (When handing a book to your child, he or she should start to be able to hold it the right way, show understanding that reading goes left to right and top to bottom, and understand the terms “word”, “front cover”, and “page”).
  • Recognize the letters in their name.
  • Match letters and phonemes (sounds).
  • Read and write early sight words.

Age 6

  • Answer comprehension questions after listening to a story.
  • Tell the main idea of a story.
  • Read age-appropriate/grade-level books.
  • Apply spelling “rules” or sound out new/unfamiliar words.
  • Make predictions throughout stories.
  • Relate story lines to personal events.

***Based on information from Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, a report of the National Research Council, by the Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, 1998; and from the Joint Position Statement of the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), 1998.


Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist

Proud Member of The Story Box Family