Literacy Milestones: Age 6

Identifying a reading problem is a challenge without a sense for what typical literacy development looks like. Find out what language accomplishments are typical for most children at age six.

Most children learn to read by age 7. Learning to read is built on a foundation of language skills that children start learning at birth – a process that is both complicated and amazing. Most children develop certain skills as they move through the early stages of learning language.

The following list of such accomplishments is based on current research in the field, where studies continue and there is still much to learn. As you look over the list, keep in mind that children vary a great deal in how they develop and learn.

If you have questions or concerns about your child's progress, talk with your child's doctor, teacher, or a speech and language therapist. For children with any kind of disability or learning problem, the sooner they can get the special help they need, the easier it will be for them to learn.

At age 6, most first-graders can:

  • Read and retell familiar stories
  • Use a variety of ways to help with reading a story such as re-reading, predicting what will happen, asking questions, or using visual cues or pictures
  • Decide on their own to use reading and writing for different purposes
  • Read some things aloud with ease
  • Identify new words by using letter-sound matches, parts of words, and their understanding of the rest of a story or printed item
  • Identify an increasing number of words by sight
  • Sound out and represent major sounds in a word when trying to spell
  • Write about topics that mean a lot to them
  • Try to use some punctuation and capitalization


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

AMERICA READS CHALLENGE: Read*Write*Now Partners Group (1997). Checkpoints for progress in reading and writing for families and communities. U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC.

Barr, R., Kamil, M.L., Mosenthal, P.B., and Pearson, P.D. (Eds.) (1991). Handbook of reading research: Volume II. New York, Longman.

Burns, M. Susan, Griffin, Peg, Snow, C.E. (Eds.) (1999). Starting out right: Guide to promoting children's reading success. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

Clay, M.M. (1979). The early detection of reading difficulties (3rd Edition). Heinneman, Auckland, New Zealand.

Hannon, Peter (1995). Literacy, home, and school: Research and practice in teaching literacy with parents. Falmer Press, London, England.

Hiebert, E.H., and Raphael, T.E. (1998). Early literacy instruction. Harcourt Brace College Publishers, Fort Worth, TX.

International Reading Association (IRA) and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (1998). Learning to read and write: Developmentally appropriate practices for young children--A joint position statement of the IRA and NAEYC. Washington, DC.

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (1996). Technology and young children ages 3 through 8--An NAEYC position statement. Washington, DC.

National Center for Education Statistics (1999). The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)1998 reading report card. U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC.

Snow, C.E., Burns, M. Susan, Griffin, Peg (Eds.) (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

Teale, W.H., and Sulzby, E. (Eds.) (1986). Emergent literacy: writing and reading. Ablex, Norwood, NJ.

Excerpted from: DeBruin-Parecki, A. with Perkinson, K. & Ferderer, L. (January, 2000). Helping Your Child Become A Reader. U.S. Department of Education.


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Hi Melissa, when teaching my students to read I use the word families (words ending -ed, -at, -in etc) until it "clicks" and they start blending any random cvc word. What really helps are magnetic letters (lowercase). Put them on the fridge and read the word families everyday. Every few days write a random cvc word and see if he can blend it, he will eventually! (By the way make sure he knows the letter sounds well first)

Should I be concerned that my 6 year old (year 1) attended Prep and is still writing numbers and letters backward, and has difficulty making the correct sound for the letter, i.e. pronounces d as b and vice versa, and cannot read very well at all. Will read a list of words with the same ending, i.e. bed, red, ted, on one page but can't read bed on the next page. Thanks

No, It is important that you show your child the correct way to make the numbers. If practice is needed, print out a worksheet from online so they can trace over the numbers. As long as they are attempting the number instead of just not knowing is good. Just encourage your child to read those numbers around the house, at the grocery store or any other place.

Should I be concerned if my kindergarten child at times writes numbers like (4,5,7), letters b,d backwards?thank you

I too have had this problem with my child. Make fun games out of writing. Like what letter or number looks best. Or my favourite go to is playing X&Os game but saying this time let's play 4&7s.

Hope that helps.

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