Many parents think of kindergarten as "the reading year," and it's no wonder: from the beginning of this first official year of school to the last, children go from recognizing letters of the alphabet to becoming beginning readers ready to tackle the challenges of grade school. A lot happens over this essential year of schooling, so here's a handy guide to help you know where your child should be with reading skills at the beginning of the kindergarten year, as well as at the end.

While every teacher and school has their own set of “prerequisites,” there's a set of general reading expectations that most teachers share when it comes to kids entering kindergarten. Before entering kindergarten, a student well prepared for reading should be able to:

  • Read her own name
  • Recite the alphabet
  • Recognize some or all of the letters in the alphabet
  • Correspond some or all letters with their correct sound
  • Make rhymes
  • Hold a book right side up with the spine on the left, front cover showing
  • Recognize that the progression of text is left to right, top to bottom
  • Echo simple text that is read to them
  • Recognize that text holds meaning
  • Re-tell a favorite story

While all schools are different, in the following months most teachers will work on a similar set of reading skills. For example, before beginning to read, students need to have a solid foundation in "concepts about print.” That means that kindergarteners spend plenty of time in the beginning of the year absorbing details about how reading works, such as the fact the reading happens left to right, top to bottom. They'll also be spending lots of time going over letter-sound correspondence, vowel sounds, sight words, and a whole host of other skills that form the framework for beginning literacy.

So where do kids end up by the time the end of kindergarten rolls around? While schools vary, a student working at the standard level should be able to do the following by the end of kindergarten in order to be prepared for first grade reading:

  • 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