When Do Kids Start Reading?

Are you excited for your little one to go to school, so they can start learning to read? For most parents, reading is a huge milestone in their kids’ lives. Did you know that reading actually starts much earlier than you probably realize? Sure, you can give some kudos to your children’s teachers, but you should be patting yourself on the back as well!

Keep reading to find out when kids usually learn to read (the answer may surprise you). You’ll also learn about reading milestones for different ages, and how you can help your little readers at home. 

When Should Kids Be Able To Read?

It’s thought that most kids are able to read by the time they’re 7 years old. Notice we said “thought” and “most.” This is because kids learn to read at all different ages. Some kids pick up on reading super quickly and may read at 4 or 5, while other kids may take their time and reading clicks for them around 8. Regardless of their age, just be patient with them and don’t forget to celebrate their victories. 

If you’re concerned about your child’s ability to read, set up a meeting with their teacher. They can give you a clear idea of what reading level your child is at. If they’re concerned with their progress, they may give you tools to use at home to assist in their reading. You can also ask what is being done at school to improve your child’s ability to read. 

When Do Kids Start Learning Reading?

Much like walking and talking, learning to read doesn’t happen overnight.There are many steps in learning to read that you probably never thought of! Starting at infancy, newborns learn that individual sounds have meanings to them. As kids grow, they build onto these early stage concepts and slowly connect the idea that combined letters make up words, and those words make up stories, sentences, thoughts,and more. 

Reading to your baby early and often is an important step in helping your child learn to read. Did you ever think those bedtime stories you read to them before they were able to crawl would one day help them read themselves? They do! In fact, if you read five books a day to your little one by the time they’re 5 years old, they will have heard over one million more familiar words than a child who was seldom or even never read to. 

What Are Milestones For Different Ages When Learning To Read?

When kids are learning to read, there are many milestones, and they don’t all have to do with sounding out words. Picking their favorite book, learning how to turn book pages, and being able to answer questions about a book are all huge milestones when it comes to reading. 

Here, we’ve broken down some of the main milestones in each age group. Remember, every kid is different from their peers. Your little one may reach some milestones way “ahead of schedule” and others a little later. 

1 to 3 Year Olds

Between the ages of 1 and 3, your toddler likely has a favorite book. If they love board books during these early years they’re able to turn those pages from right to left. They may be able to answer questions like “where is the pig?” and “what does it say?”. They may also be able to point to different objects in the book. These early reading skills set your little ones up for success in the future.

3 Year Olds

If you’re getting tired of the simple board book stories, now is a great time to introduce longer stories. By age 3, your little one likely has the attention span to follow along. At this age, they may imitate reading a story and be able to retell a story in their own words. 

Oral language development and reading ability go hand-in-hand, so these storytelling skills are an important step along their reading journey. Exposure to story structure and familiarity with common tropes will help them figure out new words in context later on. 

Around age 3 kids start to learn the alphabet song, with or without prompting. While they may not be able to recognize all of the letters of the alphabet, they may recognize their first initial. Their writing abilities may start to develop during this time, as well. Instead of only scribbling on paper, they may try to write different symbols, even if they aren’t actual letters.  

4 Year Olds

For many, preschool starts at 4 years old. With this more structured classroom setting, you may see huge growth this year. Kids may start to recognize some letters, connect the letters to their sounds, and maybe use this knowledge to try and write simple words. 

Usually, by this age, kids will start to recognize the letters in their name, and maybe even write it out. Understanding that words, in the English language, are read from left to right and top to bottom usually begins around this age. 

They may recognize common signs or logos while driving in the car. It’s always interesting when kids start to do this. You’ll quickly learn where your family frequents most! 

5 Year Olds

Reading as we more commonly think about it really starts to take shape around 5 years old, in kindergarten. Your kids will start learning how to break the small sounds of words apart from each other and read smaller, more unfamiliar words. 

At this age, they’ll begin to predict what will happen in stories and retell the story in more detail. They may even be able to read simple books to you! This is a perfect time to give Grandma and Grandpa a Caribu video-call to share your little reader with them! 

6 and 7 Year Olds

Once the basics have been learned, 6 and 7-year-olds start to decode (or sound out) words that are unfamiliar. They can also use the pictures of the story to figure out words. If they make a mistake while they’re reading aloud, they may correct it on their own. 

The books they’re able to read will start to get a little more difficult at this age. After reading a story, they’re likely able to show their comprehension through drawings. At this age, your little ones are likely in elementary school, where they will typically begin their formal reading instruction. 

In the first grade and second grade, these children can begin to develop a good reading habit and routine that can help them in their future reading program.

Can Parents Help Kids Learn To Read At Home?

Reading doesn’t start at school, so once your little one starts actively learning how to read, there are many ways to help them at home. Here are some ways you can help your kids learn to read!

Create Healthy Reading Habits

One of the best ways to help your budding reader at home is simply by reading to them. Set time aside to read together every day. These moments should be relaxing and not rushed. You may find the best time to read together is before bed. Some families like to read together at the kitchen table while they eat. By making reading time fun, you may create healthy reading habits and a lifelong love of learning. 

Let Kids Choose What To Read

When kids are doing their schoolwork, they’re often told what books they can and can’t read. At home, keep it fun! Do they love graphic novels or comic books like Teen Titans? Pull up one of the books on Caribu! 

Maybe they like books full of knock-knock jokes; we have those too! Letting them have the freedom to choose what books they read may open up a new interest of theirs that they may have never realized they had!

Have Conversations About What You Read

When you’re reading at home, talk about what you’re reading. What do you think will happen next? How do you think they’re feeling? What was the story about? What was your favorite character? These are all questions you can ask to get a conversation started. This can also really help with their reading comprehension skills.


While there is no perfect time for young children to learn to read, it’s usually somewhere around 7 years old. However, they start learning to read as early as infancy! Each age has its own unique milestones that take them one step closer to reading, from story time to basic phonics.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it also takes a village to teach a child to read! All those storytimes before bed, at the library, snuggled up with grandpa or grandma all help your child build their foundation for reading. 

Once they head to school, their teacher will start connecting reading concepts like rhyme, vocabulary words, and punctuation together for them to grasp reading even more. Keep reading those stories at home to help build their literacy skills, grammar, and fluency to complement their formal instruction at school. 

Reading should be enjoyable and shared with the ones you love! With Caribu, your little one can video-chat with their family and pick one of our thousands of books to read together at the same time.


Typical Language Accomplishments for Children, Birth to Age 6 — Helping Your Child Become a Reader | UNT

A “million-word gap” for children who aren’t read to at home | OSU

Reading Milestones (for Parents) | Nemours KidsHealth