Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It’s a snowy day in February and Gitty is curled up on the couch with her children, reading Dr. Seuss’s Oh The Places You’ll Go, “Congratulations! Today is your day! You’re off to Great Places. You are off and away!” All of Gitty’s children, even her third grader are huddled around the picture book. In some ways, Gitty is just passing the time on this long, cold day. In other ways, she is doing a lot more for herself and her children.

Beside the obvious enjoyable elements of reading with your children, there are other benefits to reading:


Speech proficiency. Simply reading books with rhyme schemes (by authors such as Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle) can help your child reinforce the basic sounds that form language. This latter helps children with pre-literacy skills as they grow. 

Elementary book skills. Children do not automatically know that books are read from left to right or that you hold a book and turn the pages as you go. As simple as that may seem, this early knowledge will help your children once they start encountering books in school. 

Strengthening the parent-child bond: With our lives constantly on the move, you need some time to slow down and just quietly be together. Snuggling up with a book lets your family do just that. Plus, your child will view reading as a nurturing activity that brings the family together. 

Academic excellence. Julie Temple Stan, the director of Early Moments, a company devoted to childhood literacy, writes that “numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. After all, if a student struggles to put together words and sentences, how can he be expected to grasp the math, science, and social concepts he’ll be presented with when he begins elementary school?” 

Superior concentration and discipline. With so many new cases of ADHD reported each year, it is important to help children learn how to sit still. Along with comprehension comes more self-discipline, a longer attention span, and better memory retention.


Reading Ages and Stages

As your children get older, you should never stop reading to them, but what are some benchmarks that you should look out for in order to ensure that your children are lifelong readers?


Ages 3-5:

(Almost) All Most Some
Know the name of their favorite book.

Hold a book correctly and turn pages.

Recognize the difference between random illustrations and letters.

Recognize some letters and numbers.

Use phonemic awareness to find words that start with the same letter.

Make up silly rhymes.

Predict what happens next in a story.

Retell a story that they have been told before.

Read or write their names.


How to Encourage Further Development:

At this age, reading with your children is essential. You can point out text in your everyday routine – on the cereal box, on street signs, and in the supermarket. You can also play word games with stamps or stickers, writing out words yourself and then having your child copy them with stamps or stickers.

Additionally, it is important to be aware of potential problems, as early intervention is key to successful remediation. At this age, speech delays are more easily detectable than reading delays, but if your child has trouble identifying rhymes between two simple words or cannot distinguish between random squiggles and letters, it is a good idea to get in touch with your pediatrician.


Ages 6-7:

End of Kindergarten End of First Grade End of Second Grade
Name all upper and lowercase letters.

Read short words.

Retell stories.

Summarize the main story of a story.

Identify punctuation and capitalization.

Pronounce unfamiliar, but common short words.

Read words with common suffixes.

Pronounce unfamiliar longer words.

Tell what the moral of the story is.

Figure out point of view of characters.

Separate a story into a beginning, middle, and end.



How to Encourage Further Development:

Get involved with your child’s reading at home by knowing what he or she is doing in school. If your child was assigned to read a Cam Jansen mystery, take fifteen minutes and read it before bed one evening. When reading becomes a communal activity, it is more exciting and enjoyable. In addition, if your child is reading a book (any book that is appropriate), you shouldn’t pass negative judgment on it (even if it is a silly topic or below grade level). Reading breeds more reading and that is the goal.

If you are concerned about your child’s development in these areas, take steps only if your child has trouble remembering new words, has difficulty putting different syllables together to form words, or avoids reading altogether.


Ages 8-10:

End of Third Grade End of Fourth Grade End of Fifth Grade
Identify common prefixes and suffixes.

Pronounce almost every common word.

Follow a sequence of cause and effect.

Read nonfiction content such as science or history.

Automatically correct himself if he mispronounces a word.

Compare two different recountings of the same event.

Describe major literary elements such as: theme, character, and setting.

Cite information from a text to support an opinion.

Summarize in writing the theme.

Describe cause and effect sequences.

Read almost all genres of literature including poetry and drama.


How to Encourage Further Reading:

Board games are great ways to encourage your blossoming reader. Games like Boggle and Apples to Apples inherently require simple reading that can help reinforce what your child is doing in school. It’s also great to keep a lot of age appropriate reading material in the home. This way, when your child is bored, you can always point to a book for entertainment.

Unless your child avoids reading, guesses at words rather than attempting to sound them out, or does not seem to understand anything he reads, there is probably not a reason for concern. In general, children develop reading skills at different speeds. If, however, your child is struggling with reading and is acting out or withdrawing in class, it is a good idea to evaluate his reading skill.

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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at [email protected].