What children should be able to do by age

The following is a list of accomplishments that you can expect for your child by age 3. This list is based on research in the fields of reading, early childhood education, and child development. Remember, though, that children don't develop and learn at the same pace and in the same way. Your child may be more advanced or need more help than others in her age group. You are, of course, the best judge of your child's abilities and needs. You should take the accomplishments as guidelines and not as hard-and-fast rules.

• Likes reading with an adult on a regular basis

• Listens to stories from books and stories that you tell

• Recognizes a book by its cover

The main sources for this list of accomplishments are Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children and Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. For more information about these sources, see Suggested Reading at the end of this booklet.

• Pretends to read books

• Understands that books are handled in certain ways

• Looks at pictures in a book and knows that they stand for real objects

• Says the name of objects in books

• Comments on characters in books

• Asks an adult to read to him or to help him write

• May begin paying attention to print such as letters in names

• Begins to tell the difference between drawing and writing

• Begins to scribble as a way of writing, making some forms that look like letters


At ages 3 and 4, children are growing rapidly in their language use and in their knowledge of reading and writing. They are learning the meanings of many new words, and they are beginning to use words in more complicated sentences when they speak. They know more about books and print. They are eager to write. They may even be showing an interest in learning to read.

Many three- and four-year-old children attend day care centers or preschool for part or most of the day. The information in this section of the booklet will help you and your child, whether your child stays at home all day or attends a day care center or preschool.

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