In first grade, students are still in the beginning of their reading journey. They are memorizing a new list of sight words, they understand the sounds of diagraphs and are reading both fiction and non-fiction books. First graders sound out words as they read and many are likely not at the level of reading chapter books just yet, although some might be delving into these longer stories.
As first graders are still at an early stage of reading, this is an ideal time for parents to take an active role in helping their child learn to read. Here’s how parents can provide reading assistance for first graders and help them gain confidence and proficiency:
- Read together
- Ask questions while reading
- Play sight word games
- Use wordless books
- Take children to the library to explore
- Use reading apps and programs
One of the easiest ways to help first graders with reading is to read with them. Most first graders will be expected to log a certain number of reading minutes each day. To make this reading expectation not feel like homework for children, parents can turn reading time into a fun bonding experience.
Encourage children to pick out their own book from their bookshelf. Parents should make sure, though, that the selected book is at an appropriate reading level. Books shouldn’t be too hard for children, as books that are beyond their level could cause them to feel discouraged or frustrated.
Don’t set a timer. While children are expected to log a certain number of reading minutes each day/week, setting a timer might cause children to just stop reading. Children who are easily distracted also could focus too much on the time and not focus on their book.
Instead, parents can peek at their phone or watch to note the time. Read several books until the child isn’t interested. Children may read longer one day; the minutes balance out. However, parents who are concerned their child isn’t reading enough may encourage their children to read multiple books for longer reading sessions.
Ask Questions While Reading
When parents are reading with their child, they should ask questions about the characters and plot. Focus on the ‘wh’ questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. Parents can ask children how they think a character is feeling or what they think will happen next.
Encourage children to think about the story as they read. When talking about what could happen in the story, have the child explain their answer. What clues are they using to make predictions?
At the end of the book, talk about what children liked about it or what they didn’t like. Not every book is a favorite. Children have their own unique opinions about the characters or about the story.
Play Sight Word Games
First graders will likely be responsible for memorizing a new list of sight words. This list might include more difficult words, and children will need to practice the list to ensure that they can identify these words on sight.
To help children easily identify their sight words, try these sight word games to focus on mastery:
- Sight Word Match
- Sight Word Scavenger Hunt
- Flash Cards
- Sight Word ‘Go Fish’
Create a sight word match game at home. Using construction paper or just printer paper, make two cards for each sight word. Mix up all the cards and lay them out face down. Take turns picking two cards to match the sight words. Have children say the sight word as they flip over the cards.
Sight Word Scavenger Hunt
Make a list of all the first grade sight words and take children on a sight word scavenger hunt. This is a great game to play in the grocery story when children are bored. Have them mark off the sight word when they find it.
One of the simplest techniques for helping children to memorize and master sight words is to use flash cards. Show children a card and have them read the sight word. Mix up the cards after every session.
Sight Word Go Fish
Make four cards for each sight word. Pass out seven cards to each player (if playing with four or more, pass out five cards) and stack the rest of the cards in the fish pond (or pile). Take turns asking for sight word cards. At the end of the game, the player with the most matches wins.
Helping 1st Graders Read Wordless Books
Wordless books only feature pictures; this is why they are called ‘wordless books.’ While books without words don’t focus on reading practice in the traditional way, they encourage creativity and help children learn about the beginning, middle and end of a story. With wordless books, first graders tell their own story using only the pictures. They might name the characters and create their own unique plot.
Wordless books change every time a child reads them, and it can be incredibly fun for children to create a new story using the same pictures! Children can even create their own wordless books!
Helping 1st Graders Read by Exploring the Library
The hub of books in most communities is the library. Getting a library card at the local library is free and sometimes even a rite of passage for children. Take first graders to the local library, sign up for a library card and let them explore the children’s section.
They can enjoy looking at all the books and even pick out a few new favorites to take home and read. Visiting the library can help children find great new adventures, discover a favorite author and expand their knowledge.
Helping 1st Graders Read Poetry
In first grade, children may be introduced to poetry. Reading and writing poetry can help children find words that rhyme, have the same cadence or even capture their feelings. There are many books of poetry for children that are fun, funny and thoughtful.
Children can even create poems. Have them write a simple poem about their day, their mood or even the weather!
Helping 1st Graders Read by Re-Reading Books
Some children find a favorite book and want to keep reading it over and over again. Reading Rockets explains that re-reading books should be encouraged. When children re-read a book, they might find new details that they didn’t discover.
Re-reading also is a great way to practice decoding. In addition, even adults re-read books and articles, too. The habit of re-reading can help children and adults better comprehend text and pick out new details.
Helping My 1st Grader Read Using Reading Apps
Some first graders might struggle with reading. They might have difficulty decoding text or comprehending what they read. Parents might read to them and ask questions as they read, but children might still struggle. Parents that are searching the internet for “helping my 1st grader read” might find lots of suggestions, including different reading apps.
Children who struggle with reading or who are reading below grade-level expectations might need additional help. Reading apps like Readability are designed for children in preschool through fifth grade and help children become more proficient and confident in both reading fluency and comprehension.
With Readability, children read stories out loud. The program features a built-in AI tutor that is designed to understand each child’s voice and this voice recognition feature lets the AI tutor understand when a child is struggling to decode a word. The tutor provides assistance when needed and also asks children questions at the end of each story to measure comprehension.
If a child doesn’t answer a question correctly, the tutor will show the child the text from the story that provides clues to answer the question. The tutor also reads the passage. This helps children learn how to use clues in the story to aid understanding.
Readability also provides parents with a portal called the Progress Dashboard that shows each child’s reading data, including reading level, reading fluency (words read per minute), the amount of time the child used the program and more. This data also can be compiled into a reading report and emailed to the child’s teacher.
Parents might not know whether a reading program is appropriate for their first grader. Readability offers a free seven-day trial that lets children access the program’s features and helps parents understand if the program will work for their child’s reading struggles.
Ready to explore Readability? Sign up for a free trial today.