Attributes of Learning&Performance

Basic Reading Skills for Students K-5

Alison Fox, Stephen Perez, & Marla Townsend

Basic Reading Skills

The most important goal of reading instruction in elementary school is to help students acquire the skills and knowledge they need to read grade-level text fluently and with good comprehension. Reading comprehension is a very complex skill. Its most essential elements involve:

  • skill in reading text accurately and fluently;
  • sufficient background knowledge and vocabulary to make sense of the content;
  • skill in using reading strategies that improve understanding or repair it when it breaks down;
  • ability to think and reason about the information and concepts in the text; and
  • motivation to understand and learn from text.

Kindergarten Level

Kindergartners are required to demonstrate correct procedure of how to hold/read a book by reading top to bottom, left to right, and page to page. At this grade level students are beginning to understand the concept of print, how to compose letters to form words.

1st Grade Level

First graders begin to answer questions about details in a story, then they begin to learn basic signal words: who, what, when, where, and why.

2nd Grade Level

In the 2nd grade a student continues to build upon skills that began in kindergarten and the first grade. Students should be able to recount and describe events or people in a passage. The main topic of a passage should be able to be recalled as well. 2nd grade readers should finally be able to different character point of views.

3rd Grade Level

3rd grade aged children's reading skills begin to evolve significantly from that of a 2nd grade reader. They should be to cite the text in answering questions. By now they should be able to describe how the characters in a story contribute to the events. Not only being able to answer questions about text but also being able to ask them is another skill that will be developed in 3rd grade. Being able to differentiate points of view within a story is another skill to be developed in the 3rd grade. Finally, being able to compare and contrast two different passages will be cultivated as well.

4th Grade Level

4th grade readers have matured. Their skills have honed significantly from the 3rd grade. By now, they should be able to draw inferences from a passage. They should further be able to determine the theme of a passage or text. In the 4th grade, they will be able to tell the differences in genres of text they are reading. Knowing the difference between a first or third person narrated story is learned in the 4th grade as well.

5th Grade Level

5th grade readers should be able to read and concentrate for long periods of time. These students generally are able to read through text fluently with good comprehension skills. They will be able to begin to decipher the meanings of new words based on root words that they know and understand. 5th graders should be able to use and understand figurative language (similes, metaphors, idioms, etc.), synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms. Because of the skills learned up to this point, 5th graders should be exposed to more complex text such as novels.

Reading Skills through the Elementary Years

We have identified the modules of reading instruction most essential at each grade level from kindergarten through 5th grade. This is an overall guide based on research, assessments, and standards but is not intended to be exact. Students do not develop reading skills the same as all of their peers. Every student hits developmental benchmarks at different times throughout their lives--movement through this instructional sequence might be a bit slower or a bit faster depending on the student.

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Great School Staff. (2014). Kindergarten through fifth grade: What your child should know. Retrieved from

Torgesen, J., Houston, D., Rissman, L., & Kosanovich, M. (2007). Teaching All student's To Read In Elementary School. Retrieved from

The Curriculum Corner. (2012). Common core checklists. Retrieved from