Brooklyn Reading Center - Developmental Milestones For Literacy

Prior to pointing out developmental milestones for literacy, we'd like to stress that, perhaps, the single most helpful thing parents can do for their children with respect to literacy is to read with their children in a playful manner. Look at words together, point to pictures that the words represent, letters that make certain sounds, and so on. Do this in a way that's fun for both parent and child, and never force things. Forcing can have a negative impact, and cause children to develop a dislike for reading.

It is important to understand that the milestones below are broad guidelines, and should not be interpreted as something you child must be able to do, as all children develop differently, and many variations are absolutely, completely normal. We can't emphasize this enough, as many parents tend to become concerned if their child seems months behind another child, or a milestone, as listed below. However, if you see substantial variation, such as your child not being able, for example, at 24 months, to perform an activity which is a listed as a 12 month milestone, that may be cause for concern, and you should probably seek professional guidance.

12-18 Months

  • Points at pictures with one finger
  • Makes the same sound for a particular picture (for example, the hard "c" sound, or a "moo" sound for a cow)
  • Points when asked where is…?
  • Turns a book right side up
  • Gives a book to you to read

Some enjoyable books for this age are:
Goodnight Moon - by Margaret Wise Brown
The Snowy Day - by Ezra Jack Keats
Moon Bear - by Frank Asch
Corduroy - by Don Freeman
Pat the Bunny - by Dorothy Kunhardt
Clap Hands - by Helen Oxenbury
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - by Eric Carles

18-24 Months

  • Relates books to children's experiences
  • Uses books as part of a routine
  • Asks simple 'wh' questions
  • Completes your sentences when reading

Some good books for this age are:
The Little Red Hen - by Bryon Barton
Wait Till The Moon is Full - by Margaret Wise Brown
Clifford The Big Red Dog - by Norman Bridwell
All the books above, as well

24-36 Months

  • Recites familiar text from memory
  • Coordinates text with pictures
  • Notices or protests when adult uses wrong word in a frequently read book
  • Reads familiar book to self

Good books for this age are:
Curious George - by H.A. Rey
Stellaluna - by Jannell Cannon
The Cat in the Hat - by Dr. Suess
Millions of Cats - by Wanda Gag
All Fall Down - by Helen Oxenbury
Big Fat Hen - by Keith Baker

36-48 Months

  • Listens to longer stories
  • Can retell a familiar story
  • Understands what text is
  • Moves finger along text
  • Starts to recognize some letters
  • May know some alphabet sounds
  • Tries to "write" ideas or notes by scribbling

Some good books for this age include:
Previous books in greater detail, plus
When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry - Molly Bang
Where Does the Brown Bear Go? Nicki Weiss
Where's Spot - Eric Hill
The Everything Book - Denis Fleming
Over in the Meadow - Ezra Jack Keats
Arthur's Birthday (and other "Arthur" books) - Marc Brown


  • Knows that text moves from left to right and top to bottom
  • Knows that print carries meaning
  • Recognizes most letters of the alphabet and corresponding sounds
  • Can tell a story using characters and settings
  • Can produce rhyming words
  • Pretends to read a book, using pictures as clues to the text
  • May begin to recognize frequently seen words
  • Can tell what sound is at the beginning of the word
  • Starts to read signs, food packages, and other commonly seen items

Good books for this age:
Nate the Great - by Marjorie Sharmat
Danny and the Dinosaur - by Sid Hoff
Arthur's Reading Race - by Marc Brown
Berenstain Bears Go to School (and other Berenstain Bears books) - by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Red Light Green Light - by Margaret Wise Brown

First Grade

  • Uses variety of strategies to read unknown words
  • Using context, can self-correct while reading
  • Can retell a story describing characters, setting, problem, outcome — 3/3/2011also predict outcomes based on title and pictures
  • Can read and understand simple books
  • Can tap out syllables and break up a word into its sounds
  • Can change, take away or add sounds to make new words
  • Can read approximately 100 words by sight

Second Grade

  • Uses encoding skills to sound out words
  • Recognizes sight words
  • Is more attentive and can understand some punctuation
  • Monitors their own reading for meaning
  • Self-corrects as needed
  • Applies phonics and word analysis skills

First and Second Grade Books:
Amelia Bedelia - by Peggy Parish
Freight Train - by Donald Crews
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (and other Very... books) - by Eric Carle
Frog and Toad Are Friends - by Arnold Lobel
There's An Alligator Under My Bed - by Mercer Mayer
Freckle Juice - by Judy Blume
Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business - by Barbara Park
Leo the Late Bloomer - by Robert Kraus
Mrs. Brice's Mice - by Syd Hoff

Third Grade

  • Reads more independently
  • Focuses more on meaning
  • Reading becomes a way to learn new vocabulary and concepts
  • Demonstrates more skilled, efficient and fluent reading
  • Uses many strategies to understand stories

Second and Third Grade Books:
Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective - by Donald J. Robert
There's A Boy in the Girl's Bathroom - by Louis Sachar
Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor - by Joanna Cole
Little House in the Big Woods - by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Knight at Dawn - by Mary Pope Osborne
Henry and Beezus - by Beverly Cleary
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing - by Judy Blume
The Hungry Thing - by Jan Slepian & Ann Seidler

Of course, reading skills continue to develop after this time. Also, your child's reading skills will help him/her learn new vocabulary words and acquire greater knowledge about the world in which we live.