Reading 101: A Guide for Parents

Your Kindergartner

Discover the typical literacy milestones for your kindergartner, and how to support your child's developing skills in reading and writing. Use the links on the left to find activities, videos, and other resources to build skills in these key areas: recognizing the sounds in speech, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing.

Literacy milestones

Get an overview of the reading and writing skills that are typical for 5-year-olds. Remember that kids develop at different rates, so don't be worried if your child isn’t doing some of these things yet. If you do have concerns, talk to your pediatrician, your child's teacher, or the reading specialist at school.

If you're concerned ...

Browse the resources in our Helping Struggling Readers section to learn more about why some children have difficulties learning to read.

You may also want to read the article Clues to Dyslexia in Early Childhood.

Reading

  • Understands left-to-right and top-to-bottom orientation for books and print.
  • Knows the parts of a book and their functions.
  • Recognizes and can name all uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Enjoys being read to and can retell simple stories or what they learned in informational texts.
  • Uses descriptive language to explain and explore.
  • Recognizes letters and letter sounds.
  • Begins to match spoken words with written ones.
  • Identifies and uses rhyming words.
  • Can recognize beginning sounds and sometimes middle and end sounds in simple words.
  • Recognizes and uses “word families” (words that share certain letters and may also rhyme, for example: bat, hat, rat, sat).
  • Identifies the sounds of each letter in simple, one-syllable words.
  • Recognizes some "sight words," common words kids have to recognize instantly without sounding them out. A few examples are atheImyyouisare.
  • Sound like they are reading when pretending to read (or reading a familiar book they've memorized).
  • Uses new vocabulary and grammar in own speech.
  • Connects information and events in texts to life and life to text experiences.
  • Likes to dramatize stories or parts of stories.
  • Can name some book titles and authors.
  • Correctly answers questions about stories read aloud.
  • Makes predictions based on illustrations or portions of stories.

Writing

  • Independently writes many uppercase and lowercase letters (although they may not be clearly written).
  • Writes own name (first and last) and the first names of some friends or classmates.
  • Begins to write some words they use and hear often.
  • Uses invented spelling — children at this age are translating the sounds of spoken words into writing.
  • Begins to build a bank of correctly spelled words.
  • Draws a picture that tells a story and adds labels to the picture.
  • Writes (unconventionally) to express own meaning.
  • Begins to write stories with some readable parts.

Looking at Writing

See examples of real writing from kindergartners in our interactive resource, Looking at Writing.

What does kindergarten writing look like?

"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan