Stages of Reading Development

The Stages of Reading Development is a continuum that explains how students progress as readers. These stages are based on the students' experience and not their age or grade level. Knowing these stages is helpful when developing materials for specific types of readers.

Emergent readers need enriching and enjoyable experiences with books, especially picture books. Students can become comfortable with books even before they can read independently—recognizing letters and words and even language patterns. They are able to work with concepts of print and are at the beginning stages of developing the ability to focus attention on letter-sound relationships. Sharing books over and over, extending stories, relating experiences to both print and pictures, and guiding students to "read," helps children begin to make predictions about what they are reading.

Early readers are able to use several strategies to predict a word, often using pictures to confirm predictions. They can discuss the background of the story to better understand the actions in the story and the message the story carries. It is this time in the reader's development that the cueing systems are called upon significantly, so they must pay close attention to the visual cues and language patterns, and read for meaning. It is a time when reading habits of risk-taking, and of predicting and confirming words while keeping the meaning in mind are established.

Transitional readers often like to read books in a series as a comprehension strategy; the shared characters, settings, and events support their reading development. They read at a good pace; reading rate is one sign of a child's over-all comprehension. At this stage, children generally have strategies to figure out most words but continue to need help with understanding increasingly more difficult text.

Fluent readers are confident in their understandings of text and how text works, and they are reading independently. The teacher focuses on students' competence in using strategies to integrate the cueing systems. Students are maintaining meaning through longer and more complex stretches of language. An effective reader has come to understand text as something that influences people's ideas.


Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

Fountas, I., & Pinnell, G. (1996). Guided reading. Portsmouth, MA: Heinemann.

Mooney, M. (1998). Developing lifelong readers. Katonah, NY: Richard Owens.

Taberski, S. (2000). On solid ground. Portsmouth, MA: Heinemann.

Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (2012)


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I particularly liked this article because it gave me insight into my children's reading ability and that both are where they need to be. Of course this was also helpful information as a teacher.

I shared this with a parent and the article is making a difference in how she approaches reading with her children.

This article was helpful on a personal and professional base. I have an emerging reader, through reading this article I understand why he looks at the picture so much while trying to decipher words. For my transitional reader, I was happy to find out that her current choice of literature Diary of a Wimpy kid and the Jessie series, are exactly what she needs to be reading.

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Dr. Joanne Meier
Dr. Joanne Meier
February 14, 2014
"Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks." — Dr. Seuss