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The Different Phases of Reading

A parent reached out to me through my website asking if I could explain the different phases of reading development and the age correlations, so I wanted to create a simple and straightforward explanation for all parents about the phases of reading and what parents can do to support each stage.

The Emergent Phase (Age 0-6)

The Emergent Phase is the first stage of reading and typically occurs in children between the ages of 0-6 years. Yes, the first time you open a board book for your newborn is sparking reading development skills in their brain! During this phase, children are developing pre-reading skills such as letter recognition, phonological awareness, and print awareness. In addition, children are developing a love for books and are beginning to understand that they can use books to learn and see new things. As a parent, your support during this stage is crucial. You can promote your child's emergent reading skills by reading to them regularly, providing access to a variety of books, and allowing your child to turn the pages as you read out loud. In addition, it is never too early to engage in activities that promote pre-reading skills such as looking at the cover and predicting what the story could be about, making predictions before you turn each page, and having your child describe what they see in each illustration.

The Early Reading Phase (Age 6-7)

The Early Reading Phase typically occurs between the ages of 6-7 years, or around kindergarten-first grade. During this phase, children are beginning to decode and read simple words on their own. Children in this phase also begin to develop fluency and comprehension skills. As a parent, you can support your child's early reading skills by providing access to developmentally appropriate books, asking them questions about what they are reading, and encouraging them to read out loud to build fluency. Another great strategy is to record your child reading aloud. When a child can hear themselves reading, they can often pick up on fluency issues and/or word skipping. At this developmental age, your child is noticing words ALL AROUND THEM. Encourage them to read street signs, cereal boxes, advertisements, etc. When children in the early reading phase starts to read the world around them, they build a strong sense of confidence in their ability.

The Transitional Phase (Age 8-12)

The Transitional Phase occurs between the ages of 8-12 years. During this phase, children are reading more complex texts and developing higher-level comprehension skills. In addition, children are also developing the ability to read for a purpose and to think critically about what they are reading. As a parent, you can support your child's transitional reading skills by providing access to a variety of texts, encouraging them to read for different purposes, and asking them to explain their thinking about what they are reading. Nonfiction text, such as articles, directions, and recipes, are a great way to challenge your transitional reader. This developmental phase is also all about reading endurance. Just like training for a marathon, readers must gradually prepare their brain for lengthier text as well. Chapter books are a great way to encourage reading endurance because readers become invested in the character and plot and want to continue reading to find out what happens next. If you’re struggling to find a book that your child is connecting with, ask your local librarian or your child’s teacher for recommendations.

You can also use these websites I’ve listed below. I often used these websites when providing suggestions to my own reading students:

Reading is complex and develops over time, at different paces, and through different phases. Whatever you do, try not to compare your child’s current reading ability to another child’s, especially at the emerging and early reading phases. ALL CHILDREN develop at different times, and they will all eventually catch up to their peers if they are consistent.

Believe in the magic of reading.


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