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When do Children Learn to Read

Reading is the ability to decode and acquire meaning from printed symbols. This process is common to most cultures and is considered to be an essential part of learning and development in many of these cultures. Parents often wonder when their children will begin to read, but are usually surprised to know that the development of reading begins long before a child can actually read. Let’s take a look at the process of learning to read and when this occurs for most children.

The development of reading skills

Reading readiness (emerging pre-reader)
This stage begins when a child is happy to sit and listen to someone read to them. This stage usually begins in the first 2 years of life and can lasts until the child is about 5 years of age. During this stage children may be able to recognize some letters and number without attributing any meaning to them. By the end of this stage some children are able to recognize many letters, numbers and simple words.

Basic reader (selective association)
During the next stage the child begins to decode the symbols and they are able to understand the meaning behind much of what they are reading. At this stage they begin to break down the words into sounds which are put together to read the words. This skill, known as phonological awareness, is considered to be a key event in learning to read. This usually occurs between the ages of 4 and 7 and continues to be an important part of reading after this time. During this stage a child will develop a vocabulary of about 4,000 words.

Decoding reader
At this stage the child is able to put the sounds together smoothly and become faster and more confident in their reading. They are able to understand letter patterns and vowel pairs that make up more complex words, along with prefixes and suffixes. For most children this stage is achieved somewhere between 6-8 years of age.

Fluent reader
It is this stage that the child switches from learning to read and begins to read to learn. Children begin to comprehend more of what they are reading and will develop knowledge of various literary techniques, which helps to understand meaning beyond the words. This stage usually occurs between 8 and 12 years of age.

It is important to note that these are estimates and some children will learn to read faster or slower than these estimations.

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