Helping My First-Grader with Reading is Too Hard!

June 25, 2021

The scene might sound familiar. You’re waiting at the bus stop for your first-grader to come home. Out of the double-doors bounces your child. You head home, fix a snack, and get ready to tackle that homework. Your child is struggling with sound blends, though. You’re doing your best, but that reading lesson is dragging on.

“Helping my first grader with reading is too hard,” you think. And, yes, helping a first-grader with homework—any homework—can be a struggle. Here’s how to make reading and homework time a bit easier.

Include Downtime to Help 1st Grader Read

The hypothetical situation above sounded pretty typical. And maybe it was. But there was one glaring issue with the way homework was handled. Fixing the snack was a great idea; kids get hungry after school, and if dinner won’t be on the table for a few hours, they may need a light snack.

What happened next, though, might have derailed the homework. The parent fixed a snack and led the child right into a homework lesson. No one missed a beat. The child just finished school, just finished hours of learning, and then came home to sit down again…and learn.

Parents come home from work and may feel burned out. The solution? We schedule down time (if we can). We play on our phones. Check social media. Veg out a bit with a television show. Give children the same relaxation.

When a child gets off the bus, fix a light snack if they’re hungry. Then let them have a little downtime. This doesn’t have to be hours, but let them have a break before helping a first-grader read or do homework. Maybe they can play until dinner, and after dinner comes homework time, bath, reading then bed.

How to Help a 1st Grader with Reading and Homework? Make a Schedule

Many children like routines. They like to know what happens next, and this can help them plan for the next task. A child’s school day is planned out. Many teachers will even write the schedule down and post it somewhere in the room so children always know how the day will look.

Think about creating a schedule at home. Parents can write a master schedule and post it for children to reference. Or parents can simply just stick to the same routine.

Keeping a schedule also helps children understand what is expected of them. They know that after they get off the bus, they have a snack, can play for a few hours, then they eat dinner and do their homework and read.

Every family’s schedule might look different. Parents of caregivers might need to build in time for sports, dance or other extracurricular activities. Just make sure children always have plenty of time for homework, reading…and sleep, too.

Children shouldn’t be pulling all-nighters to finish homework or projects. Parents might need to schedule in bedtime to ensure that children get the rest their growing bodies need. So how much sleep should children clock each night? According to the Sleep Foundation, preschoolers (ages 3 to 5) require 10 to 13 hours of sleep each night, while older children (6 to 13) need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep.

Some children may need more or less sleep than others. Parents, however, should set bedtimes to ensure that children are clocking a healthy dose of rest.

My 1st Grader is Struggling with Reading But I Need a Break!

Parents who are worn thin might not have the patience to sit down and help children with homework assignments. Parents of struggling readers or whose child has learning struggles might need to spend more time helping their child.

Parents and caregivers get stressed, and they might need a break, too. While this isn’t always possible, parents should try to take a break when kids are playing. A little downtime can help a parent feel rejuvenated and ready to help their child.

Sometimes if those lessons have gone on too long, parents may feel that they are at a breaking point. If the patience is unraveling, or if that lesson has gone on just too long, know when to take a break. And understand that taking a break is healthy.

Education evolves, and the way that certain lessons are taught might change through the generations. For parents, this may mean that their child may learn a completely different way to master a concept. Parents may not understand the new learning method, and this can be stressful. If parents feel absolutely lost, put the homework away and email the teacher.  

And, yes, parents need to ensure they’re sleeping enough at night, too. Burning the midnight oil may leave parents feeling worn out and crabby.

Helping My First Grader with Reading…with Helpful Resources

Children who struggle with reading or other assignments might need additional help from parents. Some parents may feel prepared to provide this additional enrichment, but others might not know how to help their child with their struggles.

There are many online resources that can help parents. Download worksheets to help children with reading assignments or to provide extra practice at home. Math resources also exist online.

Parents also can reach out to their child’s teacher to find ways to help their child at home. Teachers may be able to send home extra assignments and worksheets or help parents find other learning resources.

Helping My First Grader with Reading by Making Learning Fun

Some subjects can be challenging for children. They may simply struggle with a concept or lag behind peers a bit and need extra help and guidance at home.

Parents can make these at-home lessons into a game to ensure that children stay engaged. Does a first-grader struggle with sight words? Take them on a sight word scavenger hunt. Take that list of words and try to find them around the home (kids can look at boxes, newspapers, etc.). Parents also can make a matching game with sight words. Create two cards for each sight word, mix them up and place them face down. Now take turns matching up the words.

Children who struggle with story comprehension can play comprehension games. Parents can make a comprehension ball using a beach ball. Write prompts or questions about the story on each section of the ball. Toss the ball back and forth. Whatever question/prompt faces up needs to be answered.

First graders can work on math in the kitchen. Helping parents make meals and follow recipes may provide a fun math lesson. Children can help measure ingredients and work on simple recipe math problems.  

Helping My First Grader with Reading by Using Tech as an Advantage

Some children don’t like standard books, but they love technology. For the child who absolutely hates to be pulled away from the screen, it might be beneficial for parents to use technology to their advantage. Apps and online games can help children with many subjects, including reading and math.

Children who struggle with math may enjoy apps or online games to work on math concepts. Parents can find games that are grade-level appropriate via Google Play or the App Store.  Focus on games that address first-grade concepts. Although some games may have multiple levels that are divided up by grade level.

Apps and programs may be free, but some (like Readability) require a subscription. Before committing to a program, find out the cost and the billing methods. Parents also may want to explore the program further to make sure it’s a good fit for their child. Readability offers a free seven-day trial period so parents and their child can explore the program.

Some free programs and apps, though, might not offer enough support for a child who struggles with a concept. Other apps could offer in-app purchases that charge a fee to parents’ accounts when a child purchases something within the game. Children don’t always know what is part of the game, and what might be a charged upgrade. After installing free apps, be sure to disable all in-app purchases if parents don’t want any surprise charges. Those little purchases can add up quickly!

More learning-focused apps like Readability may be a better option for parents who want to ensure their child receives additional help for their area of struggle. There are many different educational programs that parents can investigate, and each one may be designed to address a specific subject or learning challenge.

If a first-grader is struggling with phonics, comprehension and other reading fundamentals, a reading app could help them move towards grade-level benchmarks and gain confidence and proficiency. Readability, for example, provides help with both phonics and comprehension. A built-in AI reading tutor helps children with pronunciation when they stumble on a word and asks questions about the story to test comprehension.

Children don’t advance to the next level until they display mastery of their current level. Readability also provides a Parent Dashboard for parents that shows reading data for each child; parents can view their child’s current level, follow their progress and see how long their child used the program. Reading reports also can be sent to the child’s teacher.

Readability also will grow with a child who is in first-grade. Readability can be used through sixth grade, which means that parents can use the program to help their first grader throughout elementary school.

Ready to try out Readability? Sign up for a free trial today!