The stages of learning to read and write begin in infancy. Each child, however, learns to read and write at his or her own speed. While general age and grade levels are provided below, the age at which a child goes through the stages of learning to read and write can vary widely. Variations are not necessarily a cause for concern. All children tend to level out in about 3rd grade.
Pre-literacy: Awareness and Exploration
In the first stage of learning to read and write, children become aware that stories can be written down in the form of symbols or letters. When parents read aloud to their child, the child learns that books tell stories. In the beginning stages, children play with letter blocks, and they may draw some letters. They play with books, but they might not read them. If they do, they may often read them upside down or sideways. Pre-literacy starts in infancy.
At this stage of reading skill development, children often pretend to read a book. They either tell the story from rote memorisation or they attempt to recreate the story, while not actually reading. They write some letters, and they can speak the alphabet. They learn to rhyme words and they may even recognise their name, when seen in print. This stage can begin in preschool or kindergarten.
In this last stage before independent reading and writing, children can pick out some words, but not all. They can write very basic words, as well as read what they've written. Sometimes they will recognise a word in one book, but not in another. They use pictures, practice and familiarity to help "read" a book. Generally, this stage is in kindergarten, but it can begin earlier.
Early Reading and Writing
At this stage, children can recognise words learnt in different and unfamiliar contexts. They can read aloud many signs and labels, as well as stumble through books. Their reading is often focused on only letters or words, rather than meaning. Even though they are reading the words correctly, they may not yet be understanding the sentence or story. They are reading with tunnel vision. This stage can occur between kindergarten and 2nd grade.
At this stage of learning to read and write, children understand what they're reading. They are less focused on reading and decoding each individual word, and more focused on the whole sentence or even the whole story. When reading aloud, they will often read with meaning and expression. They are also successful independent readers, and do not need guidance while reading. This stage generally begins around 2nd grade.
Reading and Writing as Learners
At this age, children can learn from reading. They understand, process and discuss different aspects of the story. They may even be able to make inferences from the print, or read between the lines. When writing, they use appropriate grammar and tense, as well as the correct form and structure. They are successful independent readers and writers. This stage is generally around 3rd grade.
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