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Three- and Four-Year-Old Accomplishments

The Committee for the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children has compiled detailed lists of literacy accomplishments for children of different ages. Find out what the typical child can from ages three to four.

Below is a set of accomplishments that the successful learner is likely to exhibit. This list is neither exhaustive nor incontestable, but it does capture many highlights of the course of literacy acquisition that have been revealed through several decades of research. The timing of these accomplishments will to some extent depend on maturational and experiential differences between children, and upon the particular curriculum provided by a school.

  • Knows that alphabet letters are a special category of visual graphics that can be individually named.
  • Recognizes local environmental print.
  • Knows that it is the print that is read in stories.
  • Understands that different text forms are used for different functions of print (e.g., list for groceries).
  • Pays attention to separable and repeating sounds in language (e.g., Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater, Peter Eater).
  • Uses new vocabulary and grammatical constructions in own speech.
  • Understands and follows oral directions.
  • Is sensitive to some sequences of events in stories.
  • Shows an interest in books and reading.
  • When being read a story, connects information and events to life experiences.
  • Questions and comments demonstrate understanding of literal meaning of story being told.
  • Displays reading and writing attempts, calling attention to self: "Look at my story."
  • Can identify 10 alphabet letters, especially those from own name.
  • "Writes" (scribbles) message as part of playful activity.
  • May begin to attend to beginning or rhyming sound in salient words.


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Excerpted from: Snow, C. E., Burns, S. M., & Griffin, P. Editors. (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences. Courtesy of National Academy Press. Reprinted with permission.

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