Reading skills and benchmarks

Reading Skills and Benchmarks: Construction Zone Warning for Parents!

Reading skills are a construction zone of Benchmarks.  Architects and carpenters are builders who use ‘benches’ and ‘blueprints’ for tools as they build their structures.  Teachers and parents are architects and builders also.  Their ‘benches’ and ‘blueprints’ just look different when assessing reading skills.

Benchmarks are the benches and blueprints for teachers and parents, as they construct successful students.  Benchmarks are designed to guide instruction and measure growth.  The word ‘benchmark’ itself, simply means “a standard against which to measure something.”


Standards which are used to measure the mastery of benchmark skills from kindergarten thru high school. They indicate a measurement of adequacy in comparison for a large group.   In education, the level of mastery of these standards may dictate pass or fail; advancement to the next grade; career path or limited career path.  This is where controversy comes in and I bow out for my purposes here.

Benchmarks are incremental in design.  There are many levels in benchmark assessment within a grade level and between grade levels.  I am going to limit my overview here to reading skills benchmarks and measurement tools from birth through 3rd grade.  Why, you ask?  Well, research shows that if a child is significantly below grade level reading ability by end of third grade, it becomes a very difficult game of catch-up.  Also keep in mind, there are many other factors contributing to the achievement of benchmarks…age, behavior, emotions, environment, experiences and so forth.

Parents are teachers.  In fact they are their child’s main teacher from birth to preschool or kindergarten.  Parents play the key role here.  Be informed and monitor your child’s progress.  You are your child’s first responder in seeking or providing help, if your child is struggling.

Here are just a few common ‘benchmarks’ for measuring your child’s growth on their path to become a successful reader.  I am choosing to highlight benchmarks that contribute to the foundation of  the reading process and reading success.  My highlights include: eye movement/tracking/return sweep; bilaterally (back and forth) between brain hemispheres, oral language and vocabulary development; spatial relationship; phoneme awareness; sequencing; matching; sorting and categorizing; retelling for comprehension or concept imagery; fine motor control; attention to detail; rhythm and beat; and hand-eye coordination.

Birth – 6 months

  • Looks back and forth between two objects
  • Walking reflex:  lifting feet alternately in walking-like motion
  • Vocalizes in response to speaker
  • Pitch and intonation vary

6 months-1 year

  • Finds toys that are partially hidden and then totally hidden
  • Vocalizes to another person
  • Transfers object from hand to hand
  • Begins to relate names and objects
  • creeps well
  • Claps hands
  • Moves body to music

1 year -3 years

  • Says Mama or Dada
  • Walks backward
  • Holds crayon
  • Looks at storybook pictures
  • Names objects
  • Turns pages in a book
  • Says 50 words
  • Understands approximately 300 words up to 900 words by 3 years of age
  • Produces words with consonant-vowel-consonant structure
  • Combines words to make two word phrases and by age 3 makes simple sentences
  • Follows a series of two related commands
  • Scribbles
  • Throws a ball
  • Matches simple shapes

3-5 years

  • Counts by rote to 5
  • Listens to simple stories
  • Understands approximately 1200 words up to 2800 by age 5
  • Sorts shapes and colors
  • Says up to 1500 words by age 5
  • Uses pronouns
  • Uses past tense
  • Asks questions
  • Sorts objects into categories
  • Copies own name
  • Retells story from picture book
  • Understands ‘concept’ words such as up, down, between, above, below, over
  • Identifies first, middle, last
  • Names most letters
  • Generates complex sentences

Kindergarten-1st Grade

  • Matches letters
  • Arranges number tiles in order
  • Understands approximately 13,000 words
  • States similarities and differences
  • Demonstrates understanding of ‘Concepts of Print’
  • Identifies the letters of the alphabet
  • Articulates most of the Letter Sounds
  • Has a Sight word mastery[instant recognition] of at least 50 words up to 100-200 words by first grade

Grade 2-Grade 3

  • Can skip, jump, run, hop, bounce a ball, throw a ball
  • Can use a pair of scissors
  • Can hold a pencil
  • Can articulate complex sounds in words such as au, ow, bl, th, …diphthongs and digraphs
  • Identify endings and multiple syllable words
  • Retells stories that they read or heard
  • Answers questions about stories they have read or heard
  • Has mastery of over 300 sight words

Construction Zone Warning to Parents!  Keep in mind that children achieve at their own rate.  Some faster, some slower, so don’t pull the alarm signal hastily.  Not everyone arrives at the same destination at the same time but being responsible means gathering information, observe and engage with your child, and above all, seek help if concerned.


Reading Skills and Benchmarks: Construction Zone Warning for Parents! was first published on

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