Here are the second grade reading skills your child needs to learn this year.
Key 2nd grade reading skills
The “D” and “F” of reading (decoding and fluency)
In second grade, decoding and fluency are the most important skills for your child. Decoding is the ability to use patterns to decode words and decipher the separate sounds in words. Fluency is, quite simply, the ability to read quickly and accurately, something that many second graders begin to do by the end of the school year. In the decoding department, second graders should be able to easily distinguish between short and long vowel sounds when reading common one-syllable words. (Remember: long vowels sound just like the letter, like the a in ape. Tip: Here’s a cheat sheet to help your second grader remember the sound short vowels make: a as in apple, e as in egg, i as in igloo, o as in octopus, and u as in umbrella.)
This year kids will get more familiar with vowel teams (e.g. ai in aid, oo in moon, ie in pie, oa in boat, ue in blue). They should also decode regularly spelled two-syllable words with long vowels (e.g. table, because, spider, open, and music) and decode words with common prefixes like un- (e.g. unlock, unhappy) or re- (e.g. redo, retell) and use base words they know, such as add, as a clue to decoding new words, such as addition or additional. Second graders also need to recognize grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words, too. (e.g. Words with letters that don’t make their usual sounds, like said.)
As for fluency, second graders need to read silently with enough accuracy and fluency to support comprehension. When reading aloud, kids need to read grade-level text with expression and refine their delivery with each reading.
Related: Watch our Milestone video Does your 2nd grader read smoothly like this?
Exploring fiction and nonfiction
Second graders split their time between fiction and nonfiction. In second and third grades, children are challenged to read text aimed at grades 2 and 3. This year, the expectation is that second graders should get all the help they need with these texts, while next year they’ll ideally need less assistance from adults.
Related: See our list of challenging books for 2nd graders.
Building a knowledge bank
It’s important that kids learn big ideas from every book they read and relate that information to what they already know. Think of it like using reading comprehension skills to build a knowledge bank: with every poem, story, passage, or book they read, there’s a main point, message, or key fact (or two) that your child learns, relates to their experiences or prior knowledge, and “banks” for future use.
Key skills that’ll help your second grader build their knowledge bank:
- Reading quietly and aloud with enough accuracy, expression, and speed to support understanding.
- Being able to retell stories in a way that covers the central message or lesson.
- Describing how characters respond to events and challenges.
- Recognizing a book’s structure and how the beginning introduces what comes next and how the ending concludes the writing.
- Understanding that different characters, narrators, and authors tell stories from different points of view.
- Comparing two or more versions or accounts of the same story (e.g. Cinderella versus Ella Enchanted, or civil rights as explained by a person versus a description in a text book).
Finally, your second grader should learn to use a table of contents, glossary, and website navigation menus and icons to find information.
What do all these standards really look like? It might be your 7-year-old changing voices when reading Matilda to show characters’ different points of view. Or your second grader looking up duck-billed platypuses on the National Geographic Kids website and using the navigation to find information for her report.
Related: Watch our Milestone video Does your 2nd grader read to learn like this?
Show me the evidence!
For second graders, hunting for evidence means finding — and literally pointing to — answers to questions in text and pictures. To answer the question, “What was the first message Charlotte wove into her web to help Wilbur?” your child may remember that is was “Some Pig,” but showing evidence is pretty literal: it means your child should flip through the pages and find the words — or the picture — to point out the answer.
Your child’s teacher will emphasize evidence in different ways this year, but the main skills your child should have include:
- Asking and answering questions about the five W’s — who, what, when, where, and why — to show both understanding and an ability to find answers in a book’s text or illustrations.
- Identifying the main topic in a longer (think 3-5 paragraphs) text and being able to say what the main point of each paragraph is, too.
- Beginning to understand how an author uses reasons to support an idea or argument.
Keep in mind that in second grade, hunting for evidence can be really fun — but it can also be tough. Your second grader may need to try, try, and try again to find some pieces of evidence.
Related: Watch our Milestone video Does your 2nd grader show understanding like this?
An expanding world of words
Now is the time to expose your second grader to plenty of age-appropriate but challenging texts with new and interesting words. Why? The more words a child this age knows, the better she develops great word recognition, a valuable skill for becoming a great reader and learner.
Second graders should be able to use root words and the context of what they read to figure out the meaning of challenging new words. They’ll rely on skills like using prefixes as clues, using known words to predict the meaning of new compound words (e.g. lighthouse, bookmark), and using the rest of the sentence to figure out what a new word means.
Second graders will also begin to recognize the shades of meaning between closely related verbs (e.g. toss, throw, hurl) and adjectives (e.g. thin, slender, skinny, scrawny). Remember: the more your child reads — and the more you discuss books with your child — the more words your child will learn.
Related 2nd grade reading resources
2nd grade academic vocabulary words
2nd grade vocabulary worksheets
2nd grade grammar worksheets