Thinking & Learning

Learning to Read

Kids come to elementary school with a wide range of literacy knowledge: Your child might still be learning their letters, or they might already know how to read (or something in between!). Either way, the years to come are huge for literacy development.

Between kindergarten and the end of second grade, your child is in an important and exciting period for learning to read. And while there’s no rush to read independently in kindergarten, by the time your child is heading off to third grade, they’ll begin to go from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

So these are the years to build the fundamentals. In school, they should be getting explicit instruction in phonics, which means they’ll be learning how to connect letters to sounds and then put sounds together to make words. They should also have lots of opportunities to listen to high-quality books read aloud, read books of their choosing at their current reading level, and read in the context of learning other content, too (such as texts for social studies or science lessons). At home, you can support their learning by making reading a regular, everyday part of your lives. Learn more about what parents need to know about reading instruction.

As you watch your child develop, here are some milestones to keep an eye on:


In kindergarten: Students will start to understand and recognize the relationship between letters and sounds. They’ll start to recognize some common sight words, so they don’t have to sound out those words. (Here are some ideas for fun sight word games you can play at home.) They’ll also start to understand print concepts, like the direction of reading on the page.


In first grade: They’ll start sounding out more words. They’ll begin to recognize more common sight words, and many children will stop reversing letters when they write. They’ll also probably start making more connections between what they read and their own experiences, which is fun!


In second grade: Students will build on all these skills, improving their speed and fluency, until they are able to sound out most words. By the end of second grade, most students should be reading independently.

You might be asking, “What happens if my child isn’t meeting these milestones?”

First, don’t panic. If you notice that your child isn’t progressing toward independent reading, it’s a good time to ask their teacher’s opinion. It’s possible your child just needs more time and practice. It’s also possible that they need extra support, particularly with phonics. That’s a great conversation to have with your child’s teacher sooner rather than later, because they can help figure out what’s going on.

Finally, if you have concerns that you feel aren’t being adequately addressed in school, you always have the right to ask for additional support and/or an evaluation for your child. Learn more about getting your child assessed for learning differences.

Get the Guide by email

You’ll get early access to our newest resources, timely tips on how to support your child, and more!

Sign Up