Should your newly minted grade schooler be reading when they enter first grade? Understand the skills they need to thrive in grade one and warning signs that reading support might be needed.

Most Canadian children undergo two thorough years of preparation for first grade, in junior kindergarten and kindergarten. One of the best strategies for your child’s reading success is simple kindergarten attendance beginning at the age of 4-5.

Although sometimes considered an ‘optional’ year or substitute for daycare, research shows that public preschool/junior kindergarten education is associated with an easier transition to grade one and improved reading outcomes. After junior kindergarten, the kindergarten curriculum (age 5-6) designs to further prepare your child with the foundational literacy, reading and mathematics skills they will need to approach the first grade curriculum with confidence.

Of course, not every child flourishes in every learning situation. Motor skill, language, and learning abilities can be wildly different among the youngest learners and you might wonder if your child has grasped what they needed from the kindergarten curriculum.

The Importance of Identifying Learning and Reading Disorders in Kindergarten

It’s understandably difficult for a parent to learn that their child is facing learning challenges as early as kindergarten, but there is a bright side to an early diagnosis. Children who are diagnosed with dyslexia and other learning and neurological disorders as early as kindergarten to grade one are more likely to receive the support they need to overcome their disabilities and learn strategies for academic success.

Kindergarten is often the first indication that reading and/or learning difficulties are present. As many as 12% of Ontario kindergarten students have known special needs. 30% of kindergarteners in Ontario register as “vulnerable” in one or more of the measures registered in the international Early Development Index (EDI) for kindergarten-age children:

    • physical health and well-bring
    • social competence
    • emotional maturity
    • language and cognitive development
    • communication skills and general knowledge

Concerned about your child’s reading or math skills in kindergarten or grade one? Reach out to chat about our 1:1 Grade One Readiness support!

Of the learning disabilities which might affect your child’s reading journey, dyslexia is the most common, occurring among as many as 1 in 5 learners. Dyslexia can be reliably diagnosed as early as 5.5 years of age. With dyslexia and other reading-specific disabilities, early intervention is key to success.

Reading is a complex set of skills acquired over years and years of instruction and practice. The earlier your child’s learning needs are recognized, the sooner they can learn the necessary tools and strategies to keep up with the skills being taught at their grade level. Before the complexity of the curriculum mounts, reading challenges can be addressed as early as kindergarten and grade one.

The result? Less anxiety, fewer ‘missed’ concepts and a far lower chance of later reading and academic struggle.

Which Reading Skills Should My Child Acquire in Kindergarten?

There is a misconception that kindergarten teachers are teaching reading. While some children may learn to read exceptionally early, like 4 or 5 years of age, the goal of kindergarten is not to teach your child to read fluently.

There are three main components of the kindergarten language and literacy curriculum: oral communication, reading and writing. By the end of the senior kindergarten and beginning of first grade, your child’s educational team endeavours to equip them with the following skills.

Oral Communication

  • communicate needs to peers and adults;
  • listen and respond to others in a variety of contexts;
  • follow simple directions and respond appropriately to familiar questions;
  • describe personal experiences and retell familiar stories, using appropriate vocabulary and basic story structure;
  • ask questions, express feelings, and share ideas;
  • use language to connect new experiences with what they already know;
  • listen and respond orally to language patterns in stories and poems;
  • demonstrate awareness of individual sounds and sound patterns in language;
  • use gestures, tone of voice, and other non-verbal means to communicate more effectively.


  • listen to stories, poems and non-fiction materials for enjoyment and information;
  • respond appropriately to a variety of materials read aloud to them;
  • identify favourite books and retell the stories in their own words;
  • demonstrate understanding of a story by making predictions;
  • make connections between their own experiences and those of storybook characters;
  • demonstrate awareness of some conventions of written materials;
  • identify some features of books and other written materials;
  • recognize that words often consist of beginning, middle and final sounds;
  • identify most of the letters of the alphabet and demonstrate understanding that letters represent sounds and that written words convey meaning;
  • use language patterns and sound patterns to identify words and to predict the next word.


  •  write using a variety of tools and media;
  • write simple messages using a combination of pictures, symbols, letters, phonetic spellings, and familiar words;
  • contribute words or sentences to a class narrative that is written down on a chart by the teacher;
  • print most of the letters of the alphabet, their own name and names of family members, and some short words.

Warning Signs of Dyslexia and Reading Struggles in Kindergarten and Grade One

The average child doesn’t learn to read independently until age seven, typically the time they are in grade two. However, there are usually clear indications well before this age that reading is, or isn’t, progressing on an average reading trajectory.

If your child is consistently struggling with pre-reading skills by the end of kindergarten, a specific learning disability like dyslexia may be present. According to the British Dyslexia Association, common early signs of dyslexia include:

    • Difficulty learning nursery rhymes, rhythms, songs or even the alphabet;
    • Showing no interest in letters or words;
    • A history of slow speech development;
    • Muddling words frequently (e.g. cubumber, flutterby);
    • Forgetting names of friends, teacher, colours etc.;
    • Difficulty following instructions, particularly when they require sequencing multiple tasks or following routines;
    • Poor auditory discrimination;
    • Difficulty identifying letter names and sounds;
    • Appearing not to be paying attention and/or having markedly “good” vs “bad” learning days.

By the time your child enters first grade, various pre-reading skills should be in place— letter and sound awareness, rhyming ability, interest in narrative/stories,a growing vocabulary, and basic letter formation and writing, among others.

If you’re concerned about your child’s reading and/or math abilities as they prepare for grade one, or if your grade one child is struggling with the classroom learning objectives, help is at hand.

🆘 Reach out for a complimentary consultation and discover how a Functional Literacy and Math Assessment can uncover crucial missed skills, and learn more about our 1:1 Grade One Readiness instruction, from the comfort of your own home.

How did you discover your child was struggling with early reading? Share your experience below!

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