When you held your baby, you read her lots of books. All throughout her life, you showed her the value of literacy. You took her to the library often and let her flip through the board books. You held her and read some of your read-aloud favorites like Jan Bret, Mercy Mayer and Richard Scarry.—all the while indulging in and explaining the silly, fun pictures. When your daughter started Kindergarten, you expected her to do well in reading. As she turns 6, you realize that other kids are reading and she isn’t. You begin to wonder: what is a 6 year old reading level?
What is a 6 year old reading level in early kindergarten?
A 6 year old reading level is broad. However, in general, at the age of 6, most kids are starting to string letter sounds together to read short vowel words. In order to read short vowel words, a 6 year old needs to hold continuous sounds like “mmmm” and clip stop sounds like “b.” This means, she doesn’t add “uh” at the end of stop sounds. She doesn’t say “buh” or “duh”…etc. It also means that she’ll read a word like “mad” as “mmmaaad.” The fact that she holds continuous sounds and clips sounds allows her to arrive at the correct pronunciation.
If a Kindergartner has mastered the basics of letter sounds, she can begin reading short vowel books. What is a short vowel book? Here’s a sample of what a short vowel text:
Mex the Rex has a pet rat. Pet the Rex has a pet bat. They have a lot of fun.
Notice that almost the entire passage is decodable, meaning she can read the words sound-by-sound. There are some common sight words in the passage as well, like “they,” “have,” “of” and “the.”
Reading involves mapping sounds to phonetic codes
Bottom-up strategies involve decoding or linking phonetic codes to sound. Top-down strategies involve applying your unique background knowledge, family history, experience, vocabulary…etc. to what you read. While reading requires both top-down and bottom-up strategies, early readers need to actually learn to read the words! If a child never learns to read the words, they cannot ever apply top-down strategies. Only bottom-up strategies (like sound-by-sound reading, phonics sounds and phonemic awareness) give kids access to the words. A 6 year old reading level depends on her access to the phonetic code, not on how many books you’ve read to her.
Reading aloud to your child, while obviously important, does not develop bottom-up reading strategies
When you read books to your child, you were building her top-down strategies, not her bottom-up strategies. You were building her knowledge of the world. You weren’t teaching her to map codes to sound. Of course you didn’t teach the phonetic code: that’s the school’s responsibility. Early readers need to have access to what the story actually says in order to comprehend the story and relate to its theme. When you have a struggling reader, your time is best spent focusing on her sound-by-sound reading strategies so she can actually read the words! Teach bottom-up strategies.
What is a 6 year old reading level in late Kindergarten?
Toward the end of Kindergarten, she can then start acquiring consonant digraphs. There are many consonant digraphs, but some of them are not common enough to teach. Focus on common consonant digraphs like sh, th, ch/_tch, and _ng. Consonant digraphs are chunks of letters that make one sound. At this point, a 6 year old reading level consists of short vowels and consonant digraphs. Here’s a sample of a consonant digraph text:
Shell had a fish shop. She shut the shop. She had to dash to the ship.
Notice that the text doesn’t overwhelm the student with every “sh” word. For example, words like shepherd, bashful, banish, shark, shadow…etc. are left out. Although “sh” is in a lot of words, a 6 year old reading level will limit words to short vowels.
Lastly, a 6 year old reading level incorporates long vowels
Once a child is at the end of Kindergarten or beginning of first grade, she begins learning long vowels. There are many long vowels. Some long vowels include “ee” as in “sheep,” “ai” as in “rain” and “igh” as in “night.” At this point, a 6 year old reading level looks like the following:
On a hot day, Sherry went on a train ride. The train rode along the coast. In the water, whales swam up to take a peek at the train. Then, the train went up the hill through the trees.
The above excerpt shows that in first grade, a 6 year old reading level incorporates many word types. A 6 year old reading level includes short vowels, consonant digraphs, long vowels and sight words.
6 year old reading level passages become more complex
A 6 year old reading level can vary tremendously. From Kindergarten to first grade, kids acquire many new sound units. Be sure to find a passage your child can read successfully. At the beginning, texts should only include 3-letter short vowel words. Next, texts should include 3-4 letter short vowel and consonant digraph words. Finally, long vowels are incorporated.
I’m very excited that Reading Elephant will soon offer consonant digraph books. Reading Elephant currently only has short vowel books available. However, in just a few weeks, I’ll offer consonant digraph books.