The end of the school year is approaching. With first grade looming ahead, the last few months of kindergarten are crucial for your child's continued reading success. Many parents think of kindergarten as "the reading year" and it's no wonder—teachers typically cover a lot of ground in this first official year of school—transforming students into beginning readers by kindergarten graduation.

By springtime, you’ve most likely had conversations with the teacher about how your child is progressing, and you probably know which areas of reading your child excels in and which areas require more work. You've pored over progress reports and report cards and may even have some informal goals in your mind for where you're hoping your child will be by year's end. This is a great time to work on reading skills at home and to do a little inventory check, to be sure those first grade skills are in place. As you work on those goals, it's important to keep in mind what's happening in the classroom.

While all schools are different, there's a set of reading skills most teachers cover from Spring to kindergarten graduation. Here's what's typical in reading during the final months of the school year:

1. Mastery of Letter Recognition and Corresponding Sounds: With just a few more months to go, the teacher will more than likely be triple- and quadruple-checking to make sure that every student in the class knows every letter and sound in the alphabet. She’ll challenge her kindergarten students with tricky sound discrimination tasks (like listening for the beginning or ending sounds in words), and make sure each student has an awareness of how to blend the sounds they know. Want to help? Here's a great way to practice at home.

2. Sound Manipulation: What happens if you change the vowel sound in hat from an a to an o? Can you change a consonant in the word house to make it say mouse? These are sound manipulation skills. Teachers use all kinds of tools and tricks like magnetic letters and flipping charts to show kindergarteners how sounds can be moved around or swapped to make new words. While teachers begin working on sound manipulation earlier in the year, these skills can only truly bloom when a child has a mastery of letters and the sounds they make. So the end of the year is an ideal time for sound manipulation. Check our kindergarten reading activities for hands-on ideas to use at home.

3. Vowel Sounds and Middle Sounds: Wintertime was spent teaching kids to recognize the beginning sounds of words, early spring was spent perfecting those ending sounds. Now what? The trickiest part: what goes in the middle! Often middle sounds are vowel sounds, and each vowel has more than one sound it can make. Sticky, right? By May, your reader will be more than ready to handle middle sounds and he'll spend the rest of the year growing even more comfortable with them.

4. High Frequency Words: You may be wondering by now if that list of "high frequency" or "sight" words, the most commonly used words in the English language, will ever end. Depending on what list of sight words your child’s school is using, it could go on for years to come, so get comfortable! The goal for these sight words is that they'll be instantly recognizable to your child after only a quick glance, so it’s basically a memorization game. As the year draws to a close, expect to see lots of review of the basic sight words, as well as some new additions to the list, especially longer high frequency words. Want to practice sight words at home? Click here for a fun sight words game.

5. Syllables: A syllable is defined as a way of organizing a sequence of speech sounds. For example, the word window is made up of two syllables: win and dow. Whether your child is taught to clap out the syllables or do a body movement for each, she'll spend time in her kindergarten classroom breaking words into syllables. Syllables are often reviewed and perfected at the end of the year because of their practicality for reading success.

6. Alphabetic Order: Alphabetizing words is a complicated skill. If you've ever looked at a library shelf and noticed the books slightly out of order, you'll know that first hand! Still, basic alphabetizing makes its first appearance in the curriculum as early as kindergarten. It's usually taught in the second half of the school year. Most teachers refer to alphabetic order as “ABC Order” when teaching it to such young learners. Help your child get a jump on things by working on this skill at home-- challenging to order a bunch of objects by letter, or sort a pile of papers into letter files.

7. Word Endings: Your child may come home telling you that the letters i, n, and g are very best friends. Why? Because you see them together all the time! Word endings such as –ing and –ed make a big appearance at this time in kindergarten. Children learn common word endings and practice how they're added to words.

8. Comprehension Skills: Your child may be reading like a rock star, but can she re-tell the story when it’s over? Comprehension is how well your child understands what she’s read. In the later spring months, teachers work on skills such as organizing information from the text and even using graphic organizers such as charts and pictographs to make organization easier. Beyond just asking what happened in a story, teachers will also begin challenging your learner with higher-level questions about the text, starting with “how” and “why”. On top of all these last minute skills, the last few months of kindergarten contain a lot of review. The year tends to rocket by, and it rarely leaves “extra” time for anything. But because kids have been asked to absorb so much so quickly, especially when it comes to reading, teachers often spend time reviewing core skills to make sure kids are ready for first grade. Where do they need to be with reading to be ready? While schools vary, a student working at the standard level should be able to do the following by the end of kindergarten:

  • Recognize all letters of the alphabet in both their lowercase and capital form
  • Be able to make the correct sound or sounds for each letter of the alphabet
  • Read 20 high frequency words
  • Read grade-level appropriate texts
  • Create rhyming words
  • Use phonetic skills to read new words
  • Have a strong awareness of print concepts
  • Use language structure to read new words
  • Display comprehension of what she has read

The last day of kindergarten will be here before you know it. Take a deep breath, and give yourself and your child a pat on the back for keeping up with such a complicated reading curriculum. Relish the fact that your child knows how to read- at the age of six! And she essentially learned it all in less than a year’s time. That is no small feat.