Most of us take the ability to read and write for granted. But unfortunately, literacy doesn’t come easy to some children. In fact, many studies of grade 4 kids, 15-year-olds, and adults show that many Australians are struggling with basic reading and writing.

Literacy refers to the ability to read, write, and speak in a way that allows us to communicate effectively with others, and also to make sense of the world around us.

Being able to read and spell proficiently is incredibly important for ensuring kids are set up for success in school. Kids who have trouble with literacy find it difficult to make progress at school and fall behind.

At school, kids with reading and writing difficulties may also have problems with confidence, peer relationships, and self-esteem. They may feel ‘dumb’ because they cannot make sense of the texts they see in the classroom and start withdrawing from trying to learn at all.

Into adulthood, poor literacy often results in limited career options and other opportunities in life. People with low literacy skills might have trouble reading medicine bottles, writing emails and filling out forms.

It’s a problem and no parent wants their child to be limited in this way!

How can I know if my child needs help with literacy?

Not all kids develop reading skills at the same rate. But there are some general milestones your child should be hitting as they grow up which are outlined below.

There are lots of ways parents can watch out for signs their child might be struggling including:

  • Not ‘having a go’ at spelling or feeling confident with letters and sounds
  • Mispronouncing longer words (such as ‘congratulations’)
  • Using immature grammar (eg: she broked my ruler)
  • Using overly simplistic language when telling stories or giving explanations
  • Not being able to read texts at their year level fluently
  • Having to carefully follow a sentence rather than getting the idea through the context

What literacy milestones to expect at different ages

0-1 Year

  • Looks at pictures and grasps soft covered books

1-2 Years

  • Shows interest in basic picture books
  • Responds to read aloud sounds
  • Learns and uses an increasing number of words (5 words at 15 months, at least 50 but up to 150-300 words at 2 years)

3-5 Years

  • Requests ‘storytime’
  • Answers basic ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions
  • Asks ‘why’
  • Develops vocabulary to between 1000-2000 words
  • Has a favourite book
  • Tries to read printed text around them
  • Writes their own name


  • Uses all parts of speech
  • Speaks in well-formed sentences
  • Has an extensive vocabulary
  • Listens attentively to stories
  • Recognises how books and writing work
  • Knows the alphabet

Year 1

  • Begins to read fluently through practice
  • Monitors and self-corrects own reading
  • Can discuss what they’ve read
  • Accurately spells 3-4 letter words

Year 2

  • Identifies words by sight
  • Rereads text when they don’t understand
  • Reads non-fiction for answers to specific questions
  • Begins to use formal language

Year 3

  • Reads fluently and enjoys it
  • Reads fiction independently
  • Uses a range of strategies to draw meaning from text
  • Produces different types of writing
  • Presents own work and offers a suggestion for improvement to others


It is in year 3 that we see the largest number of children for literacy concerns as this is when the gap between children who are having trouble and children who aren’t really, starts to widen.

Why do some kids have trouble with literacy?

There are varied reasons why some children find reading and writing difficult, and some do not. A few reasons include:

  • English as a second language
  • Interrupted schooling
  • Medical difficulties (such as hearing problems or chronic ear infections)
  • Vision difficulties and dyslexia
  • A learning or intellectual disability
  • Underlying speech and/or language problems

How can SpeechEase help?

Our speech pathologists bring knowledge of communication processes, learning disorders, and language acquisition to the table. They also have clinical experience in developing programs that are suited to individual needs.

We work with your child to:

  • Assess speech and literacy levels to determine what’s going on
  • Provide intervention and strategies that assist oral language development
  • Provide both parents and teachers with a supportive program designed to promote literacy development
  • Help them develop a more confident understanding of sounds, letters, words and how they go together in sentences
  • Build their ability to understand meaning of written texts
  • Enhance written skills including spelling and communication

What to do next

It’s never too late to address your child’s literacy difficulties. Getting started early can help them avoid years of struggle and the nosedive in self-esteem that literacy problems bring.

Our speech pathologists help children and adults read, write, and express themselves better through improvements in their literacy levels.

We offer individual and group appointments, and most of our programs are eligible for rebates by Medicare (with a referral) and private health insurance companies.

If you are worried your child might be falling behind, give us a call on 1300 773 273, we are here to help.

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