What are the stages in the development of reading?

What are the stages in the development of reading?

The development of reading can be divided into two main stages: Learning to read and learning to learn. Learning to read includes mastering the sound structure of spoken language, understanding the principle of the alphabet, decoding words, and fluent control. When readers begin fluently, cognitive reading demands shift from attempts to decipher audio-symbol relationships and decode words to understanding, understanding one or more perspectives on a topic, and gaining knowledge.

The stages of reading development continue continuously throughout the life of reading. Positive early exposure to print and word play paves the way for initial reading success. This is often reflected in more frequent reading and readers who are able to integrate new knowledge with their own knowledge.

We are learning to read

1. Reading

The development of reading actually begins before children become aware of the printed letters and words. Before children learn the alphabet, they must be successful with their oral language skills. These oral language skills begin with the display of children’s rhymes that help children develop and perceive the sounds of words. When children get heard on the sounds of words, they begin to focus on the components that make them similar or different. This is called rhyme and alliteration. Rhyme and alliteration provide the basis for the development of phonological awareness.

At this point, readers understand how sounds and word patterns allow you to focus on smaller units of speech sounds. These units are called phonemes. Phonemes are sounds of speech that are approximately equal to a letter or combination of letters, but not as large as a syllable. When children acquire phonemic awareness, they are able to combine the sounds of letters, segment phonemes into words, and manipulate phonemes to create new or nonsensical words. To be familiar with sounds produced in isolation, to be able to decompose words into their small, meaningless components, which are phonemes, and to be able to manipulate the sound structure of words, these are all necessary skills before reading.

Readers must also master letter naming. Children who are able to identify letters quickly and accurately learn the sounds of letters and spelling words more easily than children who are not as familiar or accurate. This is because knowing the names of the letters allows children to learn their sounds faster. This means that it speeds up the preliminary reader’s ability to understand the alphabetical principle, which is simply to understand that letters and words are composed of corresponding sounds. This understanding provides pre-readers with the key to “unlock the code” and start reading.

During this stage of reading development, readers learn the sound structure of spoken language, pretend to read, retell stories from picture books, enjoy reading stories, and recite the alphabet. The reading phase usually lasts until the end of preschool age until the middle of kindergarten.

2. Emergency readers

Emergency readers can begin to learn how to associate sounds with printed letters and words. They soon realize that the letters represent sounds and notice that combinations of letters create different sounds. Parents and teachers often notice the beginning of this phase when children use the invented spelling. This occurs when novice readers write the words as they sound, which is a typical part of this developmental stage, because these novice readers generalize their new skills too much because they have only a basic understanding of the rules of reading. Beginner readers often memorize visually, ie spelling components of words or whole words, and develop a vocabulary of “sight”. Therefore, this stage is characterized by increased sound-symbol correspondence, increased visual memorization of the high-frequency words “vision” and invented spelling.

Children in the emerging reader phase read high-frequency words as well as phonetically common words, continue to enjoy reading stories to them, enjoy stories that are predictable and relevant to them, and need to be exposed to new vocabulary in order to their comprehension has improved and they can usually resound one-syllable and sometimes two-syllable words. The stage reading stage usually lasts until the end of kindergarten or until the middle of the first year.

3. Early readers

The first readers are in the initial stages of fluency. They are usually more efficient at pronouncing words and are increasingly automated at recognizing parts of words and decoding them. During this phase, readers will learn how to divide common parts of words (eg re-, un-, -ed or -ing) that they can pass between words, thus increasing efficiency. As their fluency increases, the first readers have more cognitive processes at their disposal that allow them to understand what they are reading. Therefore, they are increasingly directing energy to understand what they are reading. Early readers will soon realize that what is explicitly stated in the text needs to be understood more, and may recognize that they need to read the sentence or passage again to understand what has been deduced. This is an important step in the development of reading, as readers begin to become strategic, realizing that they are reading for a specific purpose. The initial phase of reading usually lasts until the end of the second year.

4. Transitional readers

Transient readers improve and expand their decoding capabilities, increase automatic word recognition, increase reading speed, increase their vocabulary knowledge, and increase their level of comprehension. This stage can be considered as an extension of the early stage of the reader or as a prequel to the stage of fluency. The transitional reading stage may last until the end of the third year.

Reading for learning

5. Fluent readers

Fluent readers are understanding readers. At this stage, they move from learning to read to reading to learn. Reading at this stage becomes more purposeful. Students have access to their knowledge to gain an overview and connect with the written text. At this stage, readers began to develop more fully their understanding of meanings that are not explicitly stated. They are able to read in softer shades in the text. Fluent readers are exposed to strategies they can use to increase their understanding of what they read, and they continue to learn new words that help with comprehension. Fluent readers are usually able to capture or see only one angle in the text they read. This stage can last until the end of the ninth year.

6. Readers from several points of view

Readers in the multi-angle phase are able to critically analyze the text they read from different perspectives. They usually read a wide range of styles and themes. Readers from different angles understand the metaphors and allegories they use to draw meaning from a text. They continue to develop their vocabulary and use several strategies to increase comprehension. At this stage, students learn to write creatively and convincingly. The multi-angle phase usually lasts until the end of high school.

7. Construction and reconstruction readers

Readers of buildings and renovations usually read for their own purposes (either to gain knowledge or for pleasure). These readers are generally very fluent and efficient in their approach to reading. They have a number of strategies from which they can draw to gain meaning from what they read. Readers of buildings and reconstructions can read multiple perspectives, critically analyze opinions and information in each of them, and then synthesize this information and expand it with their own ideas. Readers at this stage of development are experts. How far the reader develops at this point depends on his / her motivation, needs and interests. The more practice a person has, the better.


This article outlines the 7 stages of reading development and divides them into two categories: 1. Learn to read and 2. Read to learn. The main purpose of reading is to obtain information from the text, so readers must be able to quickly identify individual words so that they have enough cognitive resources to understand words, sentences and paragraphs.

The early stages of reading development focus on developing the relationships between sound and symbols, decoding skills, visual word identification, and fluency. As these skills become automatic, readers will have more cognitive resources available for the comprehension stages of reading development. As readers progress through the Reading to Learn phases, they become increasingly sophisticated in their ability to understand. Finally, as readers enter the construction and refurbishment phase, they use their critical analytical skills to become creators of new knowledge and not just consumers.

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