The age children meet Milestone 5 varies greatly based on many factors including the child’s age when written language was introduced, how frequently words were shown and spoken, whether or not the whether the child was focused on the written words on word cards, in books, in videos, or elsewhere, as well as many other individual factors.

A typical age in the US for reading around 200 words may be around age 7 or 8 years, although recent data shows that 66% of 4th graders in the US cannot read at grade level according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

What Is this Milestone?

Achieving this means that your child can consistently read about 200 words. This does not mean that your child has mastered phonics, which is the seventh milestone.

Why Is this Milestone Important?

Once your child achieves this milestone, she may be learning new words more rapidly and learning some phonics. From this point, the last five milestones don’t usually take long to accomplish for most toddlers, and preschoolers may have already achieved some of them.

My goal here is to motivate parents to help their very young children learn to read more words.

Here are some tips to help your child go from reading about 50 words to 200 words and beyond:

  1. Even though your child will probably learn the words at a faster pace now, continue to use the tips from previous milestones. You just may not need to repeat the words as many times and you should introduce more new words.
  2. Continue to apply the Guidelines for Acquiring Early Literacy from Milestone 2.
  3. Make going to the library a fun weekly event! Try to check out dozens of books from the library each week like this family. This child started our program as a baby and is shown here at age 5.

    Go to libraries and check out at least 100 books a month. As a full-time student with a full-time teaching job, I went to different libraries on a regular basis and checked out thousands of books over a few years so our family would have a wider selection of books. Types of books to borrow include a variety of non-fiction and fiction – from baby books with very few words to very difficult chapter books.

  4. Once your child is reading at least 50 words, help her learn new words from books that have only a few words on each page (such as the YBCL Lift-the-Flap Books or the YBCL Mini Sliding Board Books). If a book has many words on each page, then enjoy it without using it to teach reading. Reading books with your child is great to develop a love of stories and books, and it boosts vocabulary. But traditional approaches of reading to a child do not teach reading. This may be because the average 3-, 4- or 5-year-old focuses on text less than 4% of the time during book reading.1 However, if you have already taught your child to look at words in books more than other children, then reading to your child can help him learn to read.
  5. In books that have only a few words per page, point to individual words from left to right as you say them a little more slowly than normal.
  6. If your child can read most of the words in a sentence, then you can read it at a normal pace and slide your finger from left to right under the sentence as you say it.
  7. Teach your child to point to the words in books as you say them.
  8. Occasionally, pause and have your child read some of the words.
  9. Eventually, take turns with your child reading words or sentences when reading books that don’t have too many words per page.
  10. Use a piece of plain paper to cover up or isolate the words in books.
    Cover up some of the words in books so your child can focus on a few words at a time.
  11. Turn off the TV most of the time. Have numerous interesting books available for your child. Your family will likely read more and communicate more with one another when the TV is off. However, sometimes you (or other caregivers) are unable to interact with your child. This could be a good time to show your child words using the Your Baby Can Learn or Your Child Can Read videos. To read more about research on babies and toddlers watching TV, please read this.
  12. Keep it fun for you and your child while doing reading activities and word games.
  13. Fast Words Game

    Play the “Fast Words Game” described on the Teaching Cards box using individual words and short phrases. Show your child how to play the game by demonstrating it.

    • One person flips through a stack of word cards (some of which may have short phrases) as quickly as you possibly can.
    • The other person says the words or phrases out loud as quickly as possible. Try to go so quickly that the adults are challenged with either moving the cards quickly or saying the words quickly.
    • Occasionally flip back and forth between two words, such as “clap/waving/clap/waving/clap” so the child sees and hears the same words over and over in a short period of time.
    • Your child should be watching the two better readers having fun playing the game.
    • Allow your child to play the game using the same words that were just reviewed.
    • Add in a few new words and help your child when needed.
  14. Once your child can read at least 50 words, then he may begin using the Your Child Can Read (YCCR) program. The videos include the 200 most frequently used words in children’s literature. More than 1200 written words are included in the series, which also focuses on phonics and fast reading activities.
  15. Children who can read at least 50 words may benefit from using closed captioning on television if you watch any other programs.


1 Evans, M.A., Williamson, K., & Pursoo, T. (2008). Preschoolers’ Attention to Print During Shared Book Reading, Scientific Studies of Reading, 12(1), 106–129.


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