The ability to read and write fluently and clearly as early as possible is a trait and a skill that can have a long-lasting impact on the overall ability to learn and interact with others and excel in an educational setting. It is also the reading and writing skills that are arguably responsible for a great deal of the learning pressures that young children feel. It is thus critical for parents to have a clear understanding of the processes that can be used to develop independent reading and writing in your children.
The stages of reading and writing development
There are generally five accepted stages of reading development and advancement. Although these stages are age-specific, it has been found that there can be some flexibility in terms of when each stage is attained based on the age that reading starts and how much assistance and support is provided to the child through each stage So, it is worth keeping in mind that although some ages are noted with each stage of reading and writing development, these are the average ages, and any child can progress differently, even two siblings with the same support can develop their skills at different rates, so you should only measure your child against themselves and what they were previously able to do.
Start reading to your children as early as you can
There has been a great deal of research done as to the benefits of reading and communicating with a baby while in the womb. For many parents, this is where the first reading or storytelling begins. Keep in mind that the baby will begin to hear for the first time at around 18 weeks. As such, it is the perfect time to introduce them to some great storytelling, nursery rhymes, and more. The science is clear that this early reading will develop the first aspects of language development and are the first steps in literacy development. It is also a way of establishing the calm voice that the baby will grow to rely on in times of strife. It is a means of de-stressing for both you and the baby and should be used as often as possible to start to form the bond between parents and their unborn children.
This emergent literacy stage occurs from birth to about six years old. It is when the child first begins to understand letters and words. It is vital that the parents use actual language to converse and avoid the overuse of ‘baby talk.’ It is an exciting time, and they will normally start off by recognizing the letters in their name and then progress to pretend reading. It is also a time when traditionally, children learn to sing their ABCs, even if they do not yet understand each letter. The child has begun to associate meaning with words and knows that the letters in a book are words that can be spoken. They will also be starting to write during these first few years, so reading and writing together will help them to develop their letters and words.
Fluency in reading
Generally, between 6-7 years old, the child begins to develop fluency with their reading. They no longer pretend to read and can read aloud and follow the reading by pointing to the words. Fluency is all about recognizing words and then being able to read and understand them as an entire sentence. This reading stage is all about the smoothness of reading and the rate at which a young child can identify and link words together.
Words and patterns become more recognizable and memorable
Between 8-9 years old, they will develop more independent reading and writing. It is a stage where the child should be supported, and both reading and writing practiced regularly. Using the recommended 3rd grade writing worksheets from Student Treasures is a great way to get them both reading and writing and is the best way to cement their skills. It is the stage when spelling becomes critical. As the child recognizes words and patterns in speech and the written word, they can increase their reading speed and their vocabulary exponentially. At this stage of reading progress, there must be as much practice as possible, as it is where the vocabulary and love of words and reading can be truly developed.
Between 9 and 11 years old, a level of confidence develops, and reading becomes fun and exciting. Being able to write out full sentences and understanding the structure of a sentence and paragraphs is one of the ways that reading becomes more understandable and enjoyable. There should be less reliance on the teacher or parent and reduced educational support at this stage. It is also the stage where parents should pull back a little and allow the child to start taking the lead with their reading. Let them choose their own books and allow them alone time to read and write.
By the age of 13, it will be expected that the child will be able to read fluently and is able to develop and learn an improved vocabulary all on their own. The love for reading should now be obvious if you have managed to engender it. They will want to choose their own books and stories that are more age-appropriate and exciting.
Parents and carers must be aware of these stages and the associated ages of children as they develop their reading and writing skills. Some children do not progress as they should because too much pressure was put on them at the wrong time, or they have simply not been supported at the right stage of their reading and literacy development.
Lastly, it must be noted and emphasized that unless you encourage and support your children to read and write independently through these stages, as discussed above, you will be putting them at a disadvantage. In these early years, learning to read and write is the easiest to do; thus, it is paramount that all children be given the space and time to do so.