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When do kids learn to read? How do you know if your child ius falling behind?

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Learning to read is one of the most important parts of early schooling. But there is ongoing and arguably increasing concern too many Australian children are falling behind in reading.

This year’s NAPLAN results alarmingly show almost one in three Australian children don’t meet the expected standard in Year 3.

What are the expectations around when children learn to read and how should their progress be monitored?

When do children start to learn to read?

In Australia, school is where formal reading instruction begins. So most children start to learn to read at age five or six.

In some countries children won’t begin to learn to read until seven because they start school later, while in other countries they might start at age four.

There is no optimal age to start to learn to read and beginning the process before a child reaches school age does not necessarily give them an advantage.

But once school begins, children should be taught about the sounds that letters typically make (for example, the letter t makes the “t” sound). After a few months of continuous instruction, they should be able to use the letter sounds they’ve been taught to read simple words that use these same letter sounds.

This doesn’t mean your child should be reading fluently by the end of their first year, but they should be able to remember and use what they have practised at school to read some simple words and text.

What should I do before they start school?

Parents can help prepare their child to learn to read before they reach school age.

One of the most reliable predictors of learning to read well is a strong spoken vocabulary, so explaining what words mean and discussing a range of topics with your child is an excellent start.

Reading with your child is another way to boost their vocabulary. Learning to read relies on a foundation of children learning the connections between letters and sounds. So when parents teach children to pay attention to letters and sounds in words, it helps them to learn to break the code.

Having books available to children to explore on their own (and with your help) may also increase their interest in learning to read.

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