What are typical reading expectations?

As most teachers are already aware of, there are some reading expectations for children depending on their age range.


Age range


By age 3

Recite alphabet

By age 3-4

Recognizing letters

By age 4-5

Matching letters to their sounds

By age 5

Recognizing some familiar words

By age 6-7

Reading familiar stories

By age 7-8

Independently reading longer books

By age 8

Reading fluently for meaning


When should I be concerned about a student with reading difficulties?

There are some signs that important reading difficulties might be present. These signs might be different according to the child’s developmental stage.


Signs in early childhood (children up to 6 years of age) include:

  • Speech delay and trouble acquiring new vocabulary.
  • Trouble learning simple rhymes.
  • Speech phonological deficits (phoneme/syllable omission, addition, substitution, reversal or transposition).
  • Spontaneous speech morphosyntactic errors.
  • Confusing words that sound alike and difficulties retrieving words.
  • Trouble following directions.
  • Trouble concentrating and staying focused when listening to a story.
  • Poor descriptive and narrative skills.
  • Trouble learning common sequences (e.g., alphabet, daws of the week) and with picture sequencing.
  • Trouble differentiating left from right.
  • Poor pencil grip and messy writing.
  • Trouble with page orientation when writing.
  • Auditory discrimination problems reflected in phonological difficulties when learning to writing.
  • Reverse letters or numbers when writing.
  • Trouble recognizing letters and learning to count.
  • Trouble reading and writing numbers.
  • Phonological difficulties when starting learning to read.
  • Trouble developing pre-math skills.
  • Trouble following multi-step directions or routines.
  • Visual-motor integration and fine motor coordination problems reflected in difficulties in using scissors, dressing themselves, buttoning clothes, tying shoes, riding a bike, clumsiness, and proneness to accidents.


Once children have received some reading instruction, indications that early readers may be struggling include troubles:

  • Naming letters.
  • Recalling letter sounds.
  • Recalling simple and frequently used sight words.
  • Building a sight-word vocabulary.
  • Repeating or leaving out words when reading.
  • Have significant difficulty learning to read, including trouble sounding out new words and counting the number of syllables in words.
  • Continue to reverse letters and numbers when reading (e.g., read bear as dear, for example) after most children have stopped doing that, around the age of 8.
  • Lacking confidence when reading.
  • Lacking interest in reading activities.


School-age children with reading difficulties may:

  • Have weak vocabulary development and trouble decoding unfamiliar words.
  • Struggle with taking notes, copying down words from the board, and messy writing.
  • Have difficulty rhyming, associating sounds with letters, sequencing and ordering sounds and may continue making phonological errors in speech.
  • Lack fluency in reading, continuing to read slowly when other children are speeding ahead and have have prosody deficits when reading out loud (e.g., in use of intonation).
  • Do syllabic reading even after when most kids have stopped doing so and skip words or lines when reading.
  • Continue having poor descriptive and narrative skills.
  • Stammer or may pause before answering direct questions facing difficulties with finding the right words, especially when they need to respond quickly.
  • Substitute words with morphologically, phonologically or semantically related ones while reading.
  • Do not always stop in full stops while reading and generally have a hard time to apply the meaning of punctuation marks.
  • Track their reading with their finger or a pen even when they have reached an advanced level or reading.
  • Has a hard time understanding and using punctuation and accent marks correctly.
  • Cannot split words correctly (e.g., at the end of a line).
  • Do not “leave” the right space between words, write two separate words as one or split a single word into two before reaching the end of the line.
  • Make morphological errors and unjustified spelling errors when writing; they may write the same word with different spellings within the same text.
  • Confuse grammatical terms (e.g., noun cases with verb persons) and other terms with semantic similarity (e.g., names of the oceans with names of the open seas).
  • Have trouble understanding the conventions and structures of different text types or genres.
  • Have trouble remembering what they have just read and struggle with retrieving information during a test or an exam.
  • Face difficulties in summary writing.
  • Face difficulties with written text production, in terms of content, structure, organization, coherence, syntax, clarity, proper word use.
  • Have trouble in understanding, learning and using numbers, concepts, facts and calculation.
  • Confuse the mathematical symbols.
  • Trouble remembering and properly transferring the carry digit and the borrow digit.
  • Have a hard time understanding written mathematical word problems.
  • Have trouble with metacognitive (i.e. after reading I reflect and evaluate the path I followed)and self-regulatory (i.e. what could I change next time to improve) practices.
  • Have poor academic knowledge.
  • Struggle with timed tests and exams.
  • Trouble working in a team and completing group assignments.
  • Have trouble “reading between the lines” or comprehending what they read.
  • Avoid reading out loud in class, due to feeling embarrassed or anxious.
  • Show signs of fatigue from reading with great effort.


Outside of school, children with reading difficulties may:

  • Have trouble understanding logos and signs.
  • Have difficulty learning the rules to games.
  • Struggle to remember multi-step directions.
  • Have trouble reading clocks or telling time.
  • Have trouble learning a new language.
  • Have emotional outbursts when incapable of reading something.
  • Procrastinate on schoolwork.
  • Spend more time completing homework assignments than their peers and need constant help to do so.
  • Have trouble in retaining new information, specific words or details in long-term memory.
  • Have trouble learning and retrieving names, dates, telephone numbers, addresses, how to get to a place etc.
  • Struggle with following or remembering a conversation.
  • May express their ideas in an unconnected sequence.
  • Avoid extracurricular reading.
  • Have a hard time keeping up with subtitles on the TV or movie theaters.
  • Avoid texting friends as they have a hard time remembering abbreviations.
  • Continue confusing right and left, and having trouble in space-time orientation, auditory discrimination, and visuospatial perception problems.
  • Face executive function and working memory problems.
  • Continue having trouble concentrating and staying focused, especially when reading or writing, as the feel mentally exhausted.
  • Struggle to organize everyday life and manage their time effectively.
  • Forget a task they have promised to do easily.
  • Have trouble learning music symbols (or any other symbols).
  • Have trouble understanding metaphors, idioms, puns or jokes.
  • Experience negative emotional symptoms (anger anxiety, depression).
  • Have vulnerable self-image and low self-esteem, and be oversensitive to criticism.


What can I do to help a student with reading difficulties?

Teachers are often the first to notice when a young child is struggling to meet reading benchmarks or expectations. Teachers may also have previous and current test results that highlight reading problems. Here are a few things that teachers may attempt to help a struggling student reader:

  • Document the difficulties and the student’s progress. When a student is experiencing reading difficulties, it is important for their teachers to keep track of those difficulties, including specific details about reading errors and progress.
  • Select appropriate and/or interesting reading materials. Teachers may select reading materials that are appropriate for a struggling student’s ability level. These reading materials should match the student’s ability, while gently introducing new words and reading rules. Additionally, teachers may work to select reading materials that capture the student’s interest–such as books about animals or video games, etc.
  • Encourage activities the student likes and feels good at. Reading difficulties can progressively undermine children's sense of competence increasing reading difficulties. Teachers may encourage students to participate in other activities they enjoy, such as music, joining a sports team, or anything they feel good about. Successes during other activities can help to build and strengthen confidence that can be harmed by reading difficulties.
  • Bring concerns to a caregiver’s attention. A student’s caregivers need to know of anything concerning occurring in school. Teachers may confer with the student’s caregivers and other teachers to determine if the difficulties are isolated or occurring across subject areas.
  • Seek help from a school learning support professional. If the student is struggling for more than a few weeks or becomes avoidant or distressed by reading activities, a referral to the school’s learning support professional (i.e. school psychologist or special educator etc.) may also reveal a need for an evaluation or supportive reading intervention. The earlier that support is provided, even short-term support, the better the outcomes for reading difficulties are.
  • Seek support. With a caregiver’s permission, teachers may consult other professionals who specialize in helping children with learning difficulties.

Educational specialists, especially those with experience working with students who learn differently, can help children learn to approach reading problems in different and more effective ways. Tutoring also allows a child to practice reading skills in a slower, less stressful setting.

The public system provides services through the Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).

Reading skills that don't evolve the way they should despite efforts, and difficulties that are too discrepant from those faced by children the same age may indicate the presence of a disorder named Dyslexia.


Where to find more information

Specific, detailed, and clinical information on Dyslexia can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].

If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.

You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.



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