When Is Your Child Ready to Read?

The other day, I encouraged a young mom to consider teaching her daughter to read. Immediately she asked, “When is the right time to start?”

I gave her the short answer, which is, sometime between 4 and 6. But I know a lot of parents wonder about this, so I thought I might give a more detailed answer here.

I taught my own kids to read between the ages of 4 and 6. The 6 year old could have done it sooner, but I was simply too busy.

Around four or five is usually the sweet spot. I have known a 3 year old to learn, but that is rare. And to me, teaching a child to read at 2, is like potty training a child at 1. It is just too early.

But every child is a little different. So, based on my own experience and research from around the web, these are some signs to look for.

First and foremost, does your child want to read? If your child is really into learning to read, then you should grab onto that enthusiasm and run with it.

Another practical sign is, can your child sit still for 5 minutes? Young children are super active. But if they can sit next to you while reading a story all the way through — that’ll help.

Also, does your child pretend to read? Sometimes, if a child has been read a story multiple times, they will then “read” it by themself. They remember what the basic story line is and probably many of the actual words and they just go for it. This is a strong indicator — like the child saying, “Mom, please teach me!”

Another indicator, that I have used with my own kids, is their learning how to write their own name. Sometimes they surprise you and learn practically on their own. Or, if taught by others, do they like to do it? Do they practice it by themselves? Or, can they recognize their own name? All these skills show that they have some basic understanding about letters, and that letters form words. That is key.

Lastly, your child might start noticing words and letters around them. Like a STOP sign. Or the M in McDonald’s. Or the word LEGO on the box. That shows that they are thinking about it, and intrigued by it.

So watch for these signs. And don’t wait for Kindergarten. You can do it! Give your child the best gift of all — the gift of reading. Your child will feel smart, will enjoy school more, and will excel in school and beyond.