Kindergartners can begin reading phonics books after they know most letter sounds. They can string letter sounds together to read short a words like, “Sam, cat, tap, can, bat…etc.” Kindergartners also learn common sight words like “the” and “said” that can help them read books. Once a child is ready for phonics books, you might wonder, “How long should a kindergartner read each day?” In the first week, she should read 5 minutes a day. Then, she should quickly expand into reading 20 minutes a day.
In addition to reading books, your student should have a phonics lesson that’s approximately 30 minutes long. In total, your Kindergarten reading lessons will amount to 50 minutes. I usually break up the reading into two parts, so the student can begin and end with reading a phonics story. Your lessons might look like this:
10 minutes-The student reads a phonics story. In the first few days of reading instruction, your student will read 5 minutes per lesson in total. Gradually work up to 10 minutes at the start of the lesson and 10 minutes at the end of the lesson.
30 minutes- The student does phonics activities including: learning a new phonics sound (if she’s ready for one), reviewing all sound cards, practicing phonemic awareness, using a phonics chart, decoding de-contextualized word lists, mastering sight words via decoding and sound tweaks, and spelling about 3-7 words sound-by-sound.
10 minutes- student reads phonics story
TOTAL TIME: 50 minutes
How long should a kindergartner read each day?
Beginning (first week) Kindergarten lessons will have an approximate total time of 35 minutes, since the child will only read a phonics story for about 5 minutes. Eventually, as your student develops some fluency and expands into reading short e, i, o and u words (along with short a words), the total time for a reading lesson will be about 50 minutes.
In the first few days of reading books, your Kindergartner should read books with only a handful of words per page. That way, the child is not overwhelmed. In that first week or so, as she reads a phonics story for 5 minutes per lesson, she’ll only read about 20 words in the story in total. Keep in mind that you want to eventually have her read phonics stories for 20 minutes daily.
Your beginning Kindergartner will likely decode very slowly. This is normal; her careful attention to each sound will ensure accurate reading into the future.
In the beginning, your kindergartner will read very slowly. She should say the sounds first, then blend them, giving the appearance that she’s reading each word 2x. Thus, when she reads a sentence like “Jon ran to the cat.” she should actually say, “J-oooo-nnnn Jon rrrr-aaaa-nnnn ran to the c-aaaa-t cat.”
Generally, beginning kindergartners (in the first few weeks of reading instruction), will read about 4-6 words per minute. This feels very slow, but given that she’s a neophyte, she’s reading at just the right pace. Encourage accuracy. NEVER tell her to read faster. Her slow, careful, deliberate sound-by-sound reading will build a strong decoding foundation. From there, she will become a good reader.
If you’re wondering, “How long should a kindergartner read each day?” you might also wonder how frequently you should conduct reading lessons.
Teach reading lessons daily. Monday-Friday.
When you teach your child to read, make sure you conduct lessons daily, Monday-Friday. If you want to know, “How long should a kindergartner read each day,” you might also consider how important frequency is. Even though it may seem harmless, cramming reading lessons into fewer sessions, will result in less efficient learning. Maybe you’re okay with less efficient learning. I would not be: there’s a pretty good reason why daily lessons are ideal.
Let’s say your child only wants to do reading lessons 2x a week. The other days she’s irritable and reluctantly does the lessons with big eye rolls sprinkled throughout each activity. Exasperated, you decide that maybe it’s best if you cave to her wishes and just teach her to read 2x a week. You don’t see any harm in that. In fact, you see benefits: an easier, more cheerful student.
As you continue with fewer, but longer sessions per week, you may not realize what this means for your child long-term. But there’s clear evidence fewer, but longer sessions means more work for your child, not less. Your student is oblivious to this fact, and she hasn’t developed the impulse control to do what’s best.
Though you try to persuade her to do daily sessions, you feel defeated: she really wants 2 longer sessions per week. You continue with 2x per week, cramming all that reading she’d do on the missed sessions into 2 chunks of 2 hour 15 minute sessions. She’s reading the same amount as her peers. You see no downside.
But there is a big downside. We know from research more frequent but shorter sessions results in better, more lasting learning. Let’s say Ava does two 2 hour 15 minute reading sessions per week. Myla does five 50 minute reading sessions per week. Myla will likely learn to read in less time and become more fluent (assuming both students are receiving systematic phonics instruction.)
This is called the distributed practice effect.
Dividing practice into shorter sessions more days per week results in better long-term recall. This is called the distributed practice effect.
The distributed practice effect is a widespread phenomenon that can be applied to many areas of learning, including reading. It means that if you distribute your learning across time into more (but shorter) sessions, you will retain what you’ve learned better and longer. This likely also applies to young students learning to read.
The distributed practice effect is why you should teach reading lessons daily.
We learn better when we divide learning into shorter, more frequent chunks.
Learning researcher Alan Baddeley and his colleagues did a research study for the British post office in 1978 that proved surprisingly illuminating for the field of learning and memory. The British post office had to teach some of its employees how to type. Baddeley broke the employees into several groups.
Each group learned to type, but they had different schedules. Some groups learned 1x a week, others 2x a week and so forth. The group that did the best learned in daily sessions. Ultimately, they learned how to type with 25 fewer hours of instruction. What was stunning about this research is that it showed very clearly that shorter, more frequent sessions allows learners to acquire a new skill in less time. Furthermore, these learners had better recall.
Distributed practice results in better performance long-term. Daily reading sessions may not always be convenient, but they’re worth it.
Read-aloud to your student too. You can read-aloud to your student later in the day, after she finishes her daily reading lesson.
When people think of systematic phonics instruction, somehow they get the idea that there’s no time for fun, engaging read-aloud stories. That’s not true at all. Reading lessons are only 50-minutes. Thus, you have plenty of time to read-aloud to your student afterwards.
You can read those beautifully illustrated Jan Brett books or pick up a National Geographic for kids book about animals. Read-aloud to your student and let her enjoy the rich vocabulary and colorful pictures. I recommend reading aloud to your student for about 30 minutes a day.
How long should a kindergartner read each day? Decoding and phonics lessons are about 50-minutes per day, M-F.
I hope your kindergartner enjoys learning to read!
Check out Reading Elephant printable phonics books to help your student establish a strong decoding foundation.