According to Neuman, some children are able to read as early as 2 or 3 years of age. So it’s never too early to start! That said, here’s what kids should know by age 4—or certainly by the time they’re in kindergarten:
» All the uppercase letters of the alphabet
» That a letter is distinct from a word » What rhyming is » How to segment—or pull apart—words (e.g., “carpet” = “car” + “pet”)
» How to blend words—or put them together (e.g., “car” + “pet” = “carpet”)
» That print is read from left to right, and up to down » How to retell a story in some basic form (e.g., by looking at a familiar book and telling you what happens in it)
» All (or some of) the sounds that letters make » How to read or recognize their name in print » How to write some letters, such as the ones in their name
By the time they’re in first grade, children should be able to read on their own. “They won’t be able to read complex text, but they should be able to read the words they can decode with phonics,” Neuman says. So give them a Dr. Seuss book like The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, and let them read you a bedtime story for a change!
Los Angeles-based writer Alexa Joy Sherman looks forward to the day her son reads her a bedtime story.