Reading milestones

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Learn about the reading skills expected of your child at different stages.

Key points

  • Your child will go through a series of steps or “milestones” as they develop reading skills.
  • Not all children learn at the same pace.
  • You can help your child develop basic skills for reading by exposing them to a variety of activities.

Once children start speaking, they move on to develop reading skills. This page describes the typical reading achievements for a child at different grade levels from kindergarten to Grade 3.

The "milestones" below are a general guide.

Reading skills

Children are eager learners and can develop their reading skills in a number of ways.

By the end of Senior Kindergarten (SK)

By the end of SK, many children are able to:

  • engage in rhymes and rhythms
  • play word games (e.g., pointing out objects and breaking the word down into sounds or segments, identifying words that belong to the same category, etc.)
  • identify most letters of the alphabet
  • recognize that words consist of beginning, middle and final sounds
  • know most of the basic sound-letter associations
  • appreciate that words can be found in many places (e.g., labels, familiar signs, etc.)
  • break up and sound out simple words
  • start matching written words to spoken words
  • see relationships between sounds and letters
  • recognize that you read from left to right
  • appreciate that letters can be upper or lower case
  • be able to point out the title on a page
  • highlight how pictures on the page can provide hints to understand written words

By the end of Grade 1

By the end of Grade 1, many children are able to:

  • recognize many high frequency words (e.g., “a”, “and”, “to”, “the”)
  • appreciate predictable words (e.g., “mat”, “pat”, “sat”, “cat”)
  • understand the words they read and how they relate to each other
  • recognize and name symbols and punctuation (e.g., commas, periods, question or exclamation marks)
  • adapt their reading to different types of reading materials, such as comics, books or emails

By the end of Grade 3

By the end of Grade 3, many children are able to:

  • read aloud clearly and with expression
  • use context and phonics (breaking a word into syllables) to decode unfamiliar words
  • use punctuation to help understand what they read
  • read in full sentences rather than word-by-word
  • identify and restate the main idea in a story and cite supporting details
  • predict events in a story
  • connect ideas in print to their own knowledge and experience
  • read a variety of fiction and non-fiction materials
  • understand that media are used for different purposes, for example, to educate, convey a message or advertise

How to help your child develop skills necessary for reading

Play with your child

Recite rhymes and rhythms. Play word games. Sing nursery rhymes.

Read with your child

Read stories to your child every day. Encourage your child to choose what you read together. Sound out letters in print, ask your child questions about their ideas and give them time to think of an answer before they reply. Read traffic, store and restaurant signs, food labels, flyers, instructions or advertisements with your child.

Ask your child questions about what you are reading

Ask your child questions about a story you are reading together, for example, "Why is this happening?" or "What might happen next?"

Allow your child time to figure out a word they do not know or to recognize a mistake in their reading. Good tactics include sounding out the word, looking at pictures or re-reading the words before and after the difficult word.

Quick tips for helping your child learn


For more videos from SickKids experts in collaboration with Youngster, visit Youngster on YouTube.

General tips

  • Praise your child for engaging in reading activities.
  • Encourage your child to ask for help when they need it.
  • Include reading activities in daily life.

For more information on how to support your child at home, see Reading: How to help your child.

What if I have questions about my child’s reading development?

If your child is having trouble mastering the development of reading skills, talk to their teacher to develop a plan of action. Your child’s teacher can provide support, which might include providing you with a better understanding of where your child’s difficulty with reading lies and further activities you can do at home.

Last updated: April 29th 2020