As with childhood milestones like learning to walk and talk, learning to read is a developmental process. According to the National Institute for Professional Practice, not all children learn to read at the same age, but they do reach the same literacy milestones along the way. A child’s understanding of spoken words and exposure to print has an impact on early reading. As a parent, your understanding of the developmental stages of learning to read can impact your child’s early reading instruction.
Emergent reading is the first stage of reading development. Emergent readers enjoy handling books, turning pages and looking at pictures. They are beginning to understand that pictures on pages have meaning and that books are read from front to back, left to right and top to bottom. According to the Reading Rockets website, reading favorite books over and over, having your child tell you the story while turning pages, and pointing out familiar words and the pictures they represent are all ways to encourage the emergent reader.
Early readers are able to predict what a word means by using clues from pictures. They are also able to predict what will happen next in a story based on what has just been read and from picture clues. Early readers pay close attention to visual cues, as well as language and word patterns, to predict story outcomes. J.L. Cook and G. Cook explain in Education.com that early readers employ certain pre-reading skills including recognizing the letters of the alphabet and recognizing words in familiar stories. Parents can encourage their early readers by teaching them to print the letters of the alphabet and to write their own names.
Transitional readers are moving from the appearance of reading with their pre-reading skills to making the connection between words, their meanings and how to say them. Children at this stage are also using context clues and other strategies to read for meaning. According to Reading Rockets, transitional readers tend to enjoy books in a series to help them further comprehend the meaning of the words in the stories they enjoy. Encourage your transitional reader by introducing him to favorite chapter books that have more than one title in a series and focus on one or two main characters and their adventures.
Fluent readers make reading their own by continuing to build on previous reading skills, by increasing their understanding of new reading material and by broadening their vocabularies. The National Institute for Professional Practice suggests this stage usually happens around third grade and higher, but as with other stages, there is no set age when fluency should begin. Parents can encourage their fluent readers by regularly challenging them with new reading material that is at or above their current reading level.