When Do Emergent Literacy Skills Begin to Develop?

When Do Emergent Literacy Skills Begin to Develop?

Ah, literacy lingo: it’s loved by researchers and tolerated (begrudgingly!) by parents and teachers.


If you’re a teacher or parent of an emergent reader, you’ve likely encountered your fair share of reading-related lingo. While language evolves with our understanding of how young people learn to read, it can be taxing to keep up!


Today, we’re unpacking the lingo of emergent literacy. We’ll discuss what emergent literacy means and when these skills develop; as always, we’ll follow with research-backed strategies to encourage emergent readers when words get tough.

Emergent Literacy Skills Begin to Develop

What is an Emergent Reader?


First, a quick recap: an emergent reader is literally “emerging” into a new phase of reading potential. You’ll notice that an emergent reader displays some - or all - of the following behaviors:

  • Points out high-frequency words in books and in everyday contexts (for example, on signs or menus)
  • Writes in scribbles or incoherent strings of letters
  • Expresses excitement about reading and listening to others read


There’s no “correct” timing or sequence for the development of emergent literacy skills. That said, many researchers argue that literacy skills begin to develop from birth. As soon as children begin to see and interact with print at home, in public settings like the store or daycare, and eventually at school, they’ll begin to recognize and point out familiar words and symbols.


Why Emergent Literacy is Important


Compared to other stages of literacy development, researchers emphasize emergent literacy as the foundation of lifelong learning. From birth to the preschool years, children absorb a remarkable amount of information. As a supportive adult, it’s less important to follow and perfect the lingo of literacy, as it’s always changing! Instead, we encourage parents and educators to concentrate on and encourage children’s natural interests in words, stories, and images.


The importance of emergent literacy can also be explained using the relationship between written and spoken language. As fluent readers, we don’t just read in silence: frequently, we also read aloud and speak to others about what we’ve just read! When surrounded by fluent adult readers, emergent readers will gradually develop their sound awareness - the ability to hear phonemes - and their confidence.


In this way, you can think of emergent literacy as a 24/7 Book Club. Emergent readers are seeing and sounding out new words on a daily basis; ideally, they’re given ample opportunities to talk about the new words and stories they hear or see hear.

Emergent Literacy Skills

Emergent Literacy Activities


Even before children begin school, they’re considered emergent readers. Using the following activities, you can engage your reader in the joy of reading, writing, and sharing books with others.


Before Preschool:


1.     Talk, talk, talk!

Talk to your child. Name objects, people, and events in your everyday world.


2.     Sound repetition

Young children will often string together series of sounds. Those sound strings might be incomprehensible now, but they’re worth repeating! Hearing am adult speak the same sounds back to them will enhance a child’s sound awareness - and, over time, their ability to hear and speak new words.


3.     Point!

When it comes to reading, pointing isn’t considered poor manners! For emergent readers, pointing out signs and logos will improve their recognition of print in everyday contexts.


During Preschool:


1.     Singing and rhyming

Sing it out! Many songs incorporate rhymes and short words that are easy for little ears to hear and sound out on their own. A rhyming song structure also demonstrates how different words can sound and feel similar when spoken aloud.


2.     Drawing

Take a break from the daily reading lesson: it’s time to unlock your child’s creative side. Drawing can help emergent readers communicate more complicated stories and ideas, even before they have the writing skills to do so.

emergent literacy

After Preschool:


1.     Popcorn reading:

As your child becomes more comfortable with reading, you can play “popcorn” and take turns reading parts of a book. Your child gets to hear proper pronunciation, practice their own, and enjoy some quality time with one of their favorite adults!


2.     Games

Emergent literacy is a time of exploration and play - so games are a natural addition to the learning process! Some of our favorite games for this age group emphasize pretend play. Any emergent reader can design a fantasy world inspired by their favorite book or story.

Adults can even create a “mystery box” filled with creative and educational materials, such as a notepad for writing secret messages or an object related to a story the child just read.

emergent reader



  • Emergent literacy spans from birth to the preschool years, although the timeframe varies depending on the child and other situational factors.
  • The emergent phase of reading development sets the foundation for a child’s reading journey.
    • As emergent readers, children develop their sound awareness and begin to recognize the relationship between words and spoken language.
  • To support emergent readers through preschool and beyond, adults can use a variety of low-cost activities that focus on sound awareness, pronunciation, and play!

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What Age Should a Child Be Able to Read?

What Age Should a Child Be Able to Read?

Certainly, it’s rare to see a baby reading. But by the time your Baby Einstein reaches first or second grade, should they be able to read?


Whether you’re a parent, educator, or just a curious reader, this question is both incredibly common and highly contested. Like any other developmental skill, reading is a process: one that can vary dramatically based on a student’s environment, personal interests, and their reading curriculum.


After months of virtual reading instruction, the expected timeframe to reach reading fluency has changed significantly. Whether your 1st grader is struggling to read or your high schooler chooses TikTok over books, just remember: you’re not alone in the struggle!


Today, we’re addressing one of the biggest FAQs in the science of reading - and dispelling some common myths stirred up by this debate.

Age of a Child Be Able to Read

When Do Kids Learn to Read?

According to U.S. News, reading experts say that most children learn to read by age 6 or 7, when they’re typically in first or second grade.


While this is an average, there is no “normal” age for learning how to read. As with any developmental milestone, rates of reading progress will vary: some parents report that their children are reading competently at age 3, while other readers don’t achieve full fluency (and confidence!) until age 12 or 13.


The main takeaway? Regardless of when students learn how to read, the’re most likely to succeed when they have access to high-quality literacy instruction with an emphasis on phonemic awareness and decoding. In particular, past studies have illuminated phonemic awareness as the key differentiator between good readers and “late bloomers.”

Teach your child learn to read

Without early reading intervention, researchers found that average and below-average readers developed significant skill deficits that perpetuated reading gaps, even through high school.


Reading Milestones by Grade

If you’re trying to determine where your student falls along the path to reading fluency, experts suggest the following reading milestones:


Most toddlers are emergent readers. They may not know how to read, but many look forward to Story Time. If you’re the parent of a toddler (or any emergent reader), you’ve probably committed their favorite book to memory. Many toddlers also write in scribbles: if anything, they understand that reading and writing are powerful tools of communication.


Similar to toddlers, most preschoolers are still in the emergent stage of reading! Preschoolers may also learn the alphabet song and even recognize the first letter of their name. You might see them pretending to read and/or pointing out high-frequency words in everyday life, like “STOP” on a stop sign.


When kids hit kindergarten, it’s usually time to zoom in on the foundations of reading. Not every child has regular opportunities to read at home, so it’s important for educators to teach the basic structure of a book: the front, back, title, author, and the sentences that make up a story! Many kindergartners also learn about rhyming, one-syllable words, and sight words.

First and Second Graders:

Many first and second graders are still developing readers. They’re solidifying the basics of reading: the alphabet, decoding, phonics, and sight words, all of which are essential for long-term reading fluency.

Third Grade and Beyond:

Realistically, many older elementary students are still developing their reading skills! By third grade, they’re often transitioning to longer books. Even as the texts become more complicated, they’ll persevere with their decoding skills. Eventually, picture books will be in the rear-view mirror, and they’ll advance to both reading and writing in paragraphs.

How To Support a Struggling First Grader


Parents may begin to notice early literacy issues in first grade, when learning to read is often a main focus in the classroom.

While most kids won’t achieve full reading competency until they’re in elementary school, starting their reading journey early is often beneficial. Here are some simple-yet-powerful tips to support a first grader who’s struggling to read:

Read aloud - and together.

The power of simply reading words aloud should not be overlooked. Reading aloud is helpful for first graders who are just grasping their phonemes, as well as older readers who may want to practice new vocabulary words in the presence of a supportive adult.


Get playful! Hands-on, creative reading lessons are the best for struggling readers and kinesthetic learners. Incorporate word maps, phoneme poppers, and any other lesson format that gets your reader thinking and moving.


An important disclaimer: these tips aren’t exclusively for first graders! There’s no cut-off for learning how to read. As schools continue to recover from learning loss, a combination of phonics, playfulness, and patience is needed to help students to reach - and then surpass - their next reading milestone.

learn to read


  • While there’s no “normal” age for a student to learn how to read, many U.S. classrooms teach the foundations of reading in first and second grade, when students are typically 6 or 7 years old.
  • Most literacy experts agree on general reading milestones based on grade; but these vary depending on the reading curriculum and students’ unique skills, needs, and experiences.
  • As classrooms recover from the pandemic, supportive adults are encouraged to adopt a playful, patient approach with any young reader - regardless of the student’s age!

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What Is a Word Map?

What Is a Word Map?

Who doesn’t love a treasure map?


Even as adults, many of us can remember drafting up a map on looseleaf paper and excavating a neighbor’s yard, a local park, or maybe just a bedroom.


With word mapping, parents and educators can utilize the magic of a treasure map. By framing new words as treasures waiting to be found, reading becomes 10x more exciting - and infinitely more rewarding. Read on to learn more about the magic of word maps, followed by ways to incorporate this strategy into daily reading lessons.

magic of Word Map

What is a word map?


A word map is a process used to break a new word into its phonemes for clear understanding.


A quick refresher: a phoneme is simply an individual unit of sound in a word. Graphemes are the individual letters or letter units that correspond to phonemes.


To complete a traditional word map, a reader needs to:


  • Speak the word aloud to hear and “feel” the phonemes, as well as to clarify the word’s meaning
  • Break the word down into its phonemes (orally)
  • Write down the graphemes that correspond to each sound in the word
  • Write the entire word down!


Follow these four steps, and voilà: you’ve just mapped a word.


How to use word maps


If you’re knee-deep in the research on word maps, you probably already know this: there are lots of ways to approach word mapping!


While many teachers rely on the four-step process outlined above, others define word maps more broadly. In general, a word map is any visual aid that helps students make connections between new vocabulary words, synonyms, and real-world applications of the new words.


For example: some reading teachers use a four-corner word map with one of the following details in each corner:


  1. The student’s definition of the word
  2. Synonyms of the word
  3. A meaningful use of the word in a sentence
  4. The student’s drawing of the word!


This word mapping strategy doesn’t require that students break down words into their phonemes, which may be more appropriate depending on the needs and goals of your students.

Word Map

An example word map. Image Source


Word mapping activities


Like so many reading activities, we recognize that mapping can be trickier in practice!

While the science of reading supports the effectiveness of this strategy, many educators find it challenging to use word maps in ways that feels fun, rewarding, and effective.


If you’re struggling to create the right vocabulary lesson for your students, don’t sweat it. Here are some simple and accessible word mapping activities that can be used both at-home and throughout the school day.


1.     Tap it out!

If students are breaking a word down into its phonemes, have them use their fingers to tap the sounds as they speak and/or hear them in a word. Once they’ve segmented the sounds, they can write - or “map” - each grapheme in its corresponding box.


Teachers can create simple worksheets to do this; or, if you’re at home, you can easily practice word mapping with your child using a blank notebook and colorful pencils.


2.     Use a phoneme popper.

Whether you have old bubble wrap or one of these trendy fidget popper toys, both can be used for word mapping! As students sound out a word, they first push down on a popper and then write the corresponding grapheme. It’s a playful, hands-on way to introduce students to the concept of word maps.

Learn words with word map
3.     Make word art.

When students are mapping new words, don’t be afraid to summon their creative genius! Drawing each word helps students visualize - and remember - their new vocabulary.


4.     Turn new vocabulary into a treasure hunt.

After a long day of school and extracurricular activities, kids may not want to sit down and complete another word map - and that’s okay! On days when sitting still is tough, consider these word treasure hunt activities to get everyone moving:


  • Write a new word in chalk on the sidewalk, then have kids find things around the house, apartment, or yard that relate to that word
  • Stick a new word on the refrigerator each day, and then make drawings (or take pictures) of things that relate to that word.


With a little bit of creativity, word mapping can be an exciting, versatile way to sprinkle new words - and a hint of magic - into each day.

magic of word map



  • Word maps are any visual organizers that help readers make connections between new words, synonyms, and how these words show up in sentences (and in real life!).
  • Depending on the needs and skills of their students, teachers and parents can use a range of word mapping strategies to introduce new vocabulary.
  • Some of our favorite word mapping activities include:
    • Tapping it out
    • Using phoneme poppers
    • Drawing new words
    • Creating word treasure hunts

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How to Develop Phonics Skills

How to Develop Phonics Skills

At Reading Teacher, we love phonics: it’s the foundation of reading success. Of course, a student who’s just learning how to read may feel slightly less optimistic about phonics education.


Looking for ways to make phonics lessons more exciting, enriching, and fun? With these research-backed reading strategies, it’s easy to help kids develop their phonics skills and their love for reading.


What are basic phonics skills?


The most basic phonics skills are phonemic awareness, decoding, and the ability to recognize, segment, and blend different letter groups - otherwise known as word manipulation.


Students typically develop these skills during kindergarten and first grade, although different readers learn and progress at varying rates.

Develop Phonics Skills

How can I improve my child’s phonics skills?


To improve a child’s phonics skills, educators should keep these key teaching strategies in mind:


Systematic and explicit instruction

Unlike learning how to walk or hold a spoon, learning phonics is not a “natural” phase of human development. Word sounds and spelling must be taught directly and systematically: we can’t expect students to “pick up” phonics skills from reading whole words or making inferences from pictures. To learn phonics, students need exposure to:


  • All major letter-sound relationships - sing that alphabet song!
  • Letter shapes and names
  • Books, of course - but read them out loud so students can hear the letter sounds!


Phonics games

During classtime, explicit phonics instruction is crucial. After class, however, there are tons of activities to reinforce students’ phonics skills. Here are some of our favorites:

Developing Phonics Skills
1.    “I Spy”

Identify a secret object in the room and use phonics clues to help the child guess the object. Does it start with /ph/? Does it rhyme with “cat”? Get creative - and try to use some of the phonics letter patterns that your child is learning at school.


2.    Blend & Digraph Bingo

If you’re an adult struggling to understand the difference between a blend and a digraph, you’re not alone! This is a tough phonics skill for students to learn - and for adults to remember.


Fortunately, this free (and printable!) bingo game makes it easy for everyone involved. Using any of the 27 boards, students match the sounds of beginning blends and digraphs with the right picture. Feel free to use these as inspiration for your own phonics bingo games, based on the needs and skills of your student(s).


3.    Slap the Sound

Searching for a hands-on activity to build phonics skills? Find a flyswatter. Using letter tiles and a fly swatter, kinesthetic learners can sound out letters one at a time and swat the letters as they go.

How to Develop Phonics Skills
Phonics flashcards


Flashcards are a simple yet versatile way to sharpen the phonics skills. As a supplement to classroom lessons and phonics games, they’re an easy way to review learning objectives at the beginning or end of the day.


While flipping through flashcards can be a bore, it definitely doesn’t have to be! Here are some easy ways to gamify flashcards for phonics AND fun:


1.    Phonics Treasure Hunt

Play hide-and-seek with your flashcards. Hide cards around the house or classroom and send readers on a quest to find them. When a card is found, the player reads the card and writes it down on a treasure map.


2.    Silly Stories

Randomly hand out flashcards to a group of readers. Have one start with a silly sentence using the word on their flashcard. The next student has to build on that sentence with their own silly phrase, and so on. At the end, you’ll have one big, silly story with a sentence from every reader!


3.    Find an Object

Lay a phonics card face-up and ask a child to find an object in the room that begins with that sound.


Developing phonics skills takes time, patience, and a desire to have fun! With the right phonics games and flashcard activities, students will enhance their skills AND their confidence - without even realizing how hard they’re working.

How to Develop Phonics Skills


  • Basic phonics skills include phonemic awareness, decoding, and word manipulation.
    • Young readers also need a strong understanding of letter shapes and names before moving onto more complex phonics patterns.
  • To improve a child’s phonics skills, parents and educators can use a variety of strategies:
    • Hands-on and classroom-based phonics games
    • Phonics flashcards, which can be used in a variety of contexts

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How to Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

How to Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

Phonics is the pathway to reading success - and for struggling readers, it can also be the biggest obstacle.


If you’re the parent or educator of a struggling reader, you’ve likely done your research. You know that phonics instruction is crucial for early readers, but finding the “right” decodable books and phonics readers can be daunting. To streamline your process, we’ve identified some of the best phonics intervention activities to support and re-energize a struggling reader.

How to Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

Phonics Intervention Activities


Imagine: your struggling reader just came home from school with a list of phonics intervention activities. Sounds a bit intense, right? While this language may seem intimidating, phonics interventions are actually designed to empower young readers with the skills and confidence they need to read more complicated texts.


So, what exactly is a phonics intervention?


A phonics intervention is any activity that seeks to improve a student’s knowledge and application of phonics: the reading method of connecting letters and their sounds. According to the National Reading Panel, phonics intervention activities should be explicit, systematic, taught in small groups, and focused on specific skills: for example, focusing on one or two types of phoneme manipulations rather than multiple types.

Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

Some of the best phonics intervention activities include:

  • Phoneme Manipulation Activities. Phoneme manipulation is crucially important when teaching phonics to struggling readers - and for many students, it’s also one of the most difficult skills they’ll practice!
  • Phonics Books & Phonics Readers, and Decodable Books.
  • Hands-on Reading Strategies.


To make these activities easier for readers and their teachers, let’s cover some key questions & their answers.


What is phoneme manipulation?


Phoneme manipulation describes the ability to change individual phonemes (the smallest sound units) in a word. Change /p/ in “top” to /b/, and - like magic - you’ve manipulated a phoneme!


What are the types of phoneme manipulation?


There are three main types of phoneme manipulation:

  • Phoneme Addition: for example, begin with the word “ray” and add /g/ to the front of the word, resulting in “gray”
  • Phoneme Deletion: for example, begin with the word “plant” and take away /l/, resulting in “pant” (this is a bit trickier, as you’re deleting the second phoneme from the consonant blend /pl/!)
  • Phoneme Substitution: for example, changing the /w/ in “wall” to /b/, resulting in “ball”


Teachers and parents can give these challenges orally, which adds variety and excitement to daily reading practice: a huge bonus for struggling readers.

Teach Phonics to Struggling Readers

Phonics Books for Struggling Readers


Whether you’re searching for decodable books or phonics readers, it’s overwhelming to sift through the hundreds of books designed for struggling readers. But just like other phonics interventions, the best phonics books should focus on the following reading skills:

  • Before moving onto more complicated phonics books, students’ earliest books should focus on both short and long vowels. Because every single syllable of every single word includes a vowel sound, this is not a skill to skimp on!
  • CVC and sight words. Sight words are high-frequency words that can’t be sounded out, while CVC words start and end with a consonant and contain a vowel in the middle. When reading phonics books, focus on these word categories before moving onto more difficult phonics patterns.
  • Search for phonics patterns. Get your red pen out: it’s time to mark up your decodable book! Identify a common phonics pattern, then have a struggling reader mark the pattern in their phonics book. They’ll be mentally prepared to read these phonics patterns in-context, which can be difficult when they don’t have a chance to see & mark them beforehand.
    • Because decodable readers focus on a single phonics pattern or word family, they’re an excellent choice for many struggling readers.
Teaching Phonics to Struggling Readers

Hands-On Reading Activities for Struggling Readers


For struggling readers, tuning into all the senses is key. After reading a decodable book, readers can practice new words with some of the following hands-on phonics activities:

  • Bubble Wrap Flash Cards: Place flashcards on bubble wrap on the floor. Reader reads the card - then stomps on it! Educational and satisfying.
  • Word Slide: As readers sound out a word, have them tap their arm going down while segmenting the sounds. When they’ve successfully sounded out the word, they’ll “slide” their hand down their arm again to blend the sounds together. See an example of this strategy here.
  • Letter Tiles: use magnetic or plastic letter tiles to practice phonemic manipulation. Whether they’re on the fridge or the kitchen table, letter tiles are a fun, budget-friendly, and low-pressure reading activity.



  • While finding the best phonics interventions can feel overwhelming, supportive adults are encouraged to use a variety of strategies to support struggling readers.
  • To support struggling readers, we recommend a mix of phoneme manipulation activities, phonics readers and decodable books, and hands-on reading activities.

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7 Early Signs Your Child May Have a Reading Issue

7 Early Signs Your Child May Have a Reading Issue

What counts as a “reading issue?”


In a shift toward more inclusive language, some educators and researchers refer to reading issues - rather than reading disabilities or disorders - to describe the challenges faced by readers of all ages.


Of course, a 7 year-old struggling with reading differs from an 11 year-old facing a reading challenge. When readers reach adulthood, they may find that unaddressed learning struggles and the stressors of adult life create new reading issues. What connects readers across age groups is the experience of struggling, learning, and, ultimately, continuing to read.


Many people will face a reading challenge at some point in their literacy journey. If you’re working closely with a young reader, here are seven signs that may indicate more serious reading issues. With early diagnosis and personalized support, even significant reading challenges can be overcome.

Reading Issue of children

Early Signs of Reading Difficulty


1. Resistance to reading aloud. When children struggle with phonological awareness and the pronunciation of words, they may resist reading aloud - even with a trusted adult. Fears around reading aloud can be normal, especially in a group setting. But if you notice especially hesitant and labored reading, it’s worth taking a closer look.


2. Difficulty with rhyming. If your child struggles to keep pace with nursery rhymes, it may be a sign of dyslexia, which hampers the ability to process the sounds of language. Another common reading issue is apraxia, a motor speech disorder that slows the development of phonological awareness and letter knowledge.


3. Limited expression & poor comprehension. In a child’s elementary school years, a noticeable struggle to comprehend words - and to read them with emotional expression - may point toward dyslexia or other reading struggles.

Signs of reading issue in a child

4. Decoding difficulties. Let’s face it: for most children, learning to decode takes a great deal of time and energy. But if your child is skipping words, misreading them altogether, and/or reading very slowly, they’re likely missing the overall meaning of the text.


5. Inability to memorize sight words. Even after hours of repetition, a poor memory of common sight words can indicate issues with auditory processing or visual perception.


6. Attention issues. Especially for a young reader, finding the energy to concentrate on a story can be tricky. However, if a reader is getting lost on a page and struggling to attend to the words - let alone, the plot of the story! - a deeper reading issue may be at play.


7. Spelling woes. Just like decoding and memorizing sight words, learning to spell takes time and repetition. We’re not all cut out for the spelling bee - but if you notice different spellings of the same word throughout the same piece of writing, it could be a sign of dysgraphia, a neurological disorder that affects spelling and/or the ability to convert thoughts into written words.

7 Year-Old Struggling With Reading


At age 7, U.S. schoolchildren are typically entering second grade. Second-graders are typically expected to read more efficiently and fluently, assuming they’ve developed the reading strategies to tackle more complicated sentences and genres.


While there’s no official make-or-break year for reading success, experts at understood.org - a leading website for dyslexia information - agree that if children still confuse look-alike letters (for example, b, d, p, and q) or sound-alike letters (b and p, or d and t) after age 7, they may have a greater reading issue.

7 Early Signs Your Child May Have a Reading Issue

11 Year-Old Struggling With Reading


If your 11 year-old is still struggling with reading, it’s important to recognize the toll of the past few years. With a pandemic, virtual learning, and the loss of both learning and social opportunities, many older elementary students are still learning to read independently. Heading into fifth grade and middle school, parents and educators can take some of the following actions to encourage a struggling reader:


  • Get their eyes checked! Vision problems can affect early reading and academic confidence. New glasses can be a simple but profound shift for a fifth-grader struggling with reading.
  • Consult with a doctor about dyslexia testing. As we’ve mentioned, many early literacy struggles emerge from diagnosable - and 100% manageable - reading issues.
  • Celebrate their progress. Even if progress is slow, encourage your child throughout the process. Also consider audiobooks and podcasts - which, like good books, can cultivate a sense of wonder and interest in the world.


With the backbone of a phonics-driven curriculum, parents and educators can meet struggling readers at eye-level and support them in their journey - regardless of where they began.

Early Signs of having reading issue


  • While no reading issue manifests the same in all children, adults can look out for early signs of reading difficulty, including:
    • Issues with rhyming
    • Resistance to reading aloud
    • Poor comprehension and expression of words
    • Spelling & writing issues, especially when written skills lag behind a child’s oral communication skills
  • Parents are encouraged to remember the impact of the pandemic on their students’ reading progress.
    • It’s crucial to provide patience, explore alternative reading activities, and diagnose underlying vision and reading issues.

Start Teaching Reading for Free Now!

Access Level 1’s four interactive stories and the accompanying supplemental resources to teach elementary students how to read. No credit card is needed. Join the 42,635 teachers and students using our reading program.

How to Make Reading Fun for 1st Graders

How to Make Reading Fun for 1st Graders

If you’ve ever announced “reading time!” and received an audible groan in response, you know that 1st graders can be a tough crowd. Even as they gain reading skills and discover new books, students may feel overwhelmed by reading expectations in 1st grade, which many experts agree is a foundational year for reading success.


To reduce the pressure and maximize the fun, we’re focusing on reading activities for 1st graders that will make reading more enjoyable, exciting, and just as educational - both in the classroom and at home.

Make Reading Fun for 1st Graders

How To Make Reading More Fun


Before offering specific reading activities for 1st graders, it’s important to ask: why would a 1st grader not enjoy reading? As a parent or educator, you’ll learn that children develop distinct likes and dislikes from an early age - and inevitably, some 1st graders may like reading more than others. That said, if you have a first grade struggling reader who dislikes or even refuses to read, it’s worth considering the following possibilities:


  • They aren’t interested in the format or topic of assigned books. If this rings true, try graphic novels, partnering with a librarian to identify your student’s interests, and reducing screen time. The fast-paced format of online games and social media can easily distract 1st graders from the slow - but rewarding - process of reading physical books.
  • They haven’t developed foundational reading skills. 1st graders may start to experience reading difficulties that can slow the development of early reading skills. If you have concerns about reading disorders or even poor eyesight, communicating early with teachers and healthcare providers is essential to support your 1st grader’s skills and confidence.
  • They haven’t found the right reading activities for 1st graders! In a traditional classroom, educators may not always adhere to a phonics-driven curriculum. Classrooms that still use elements of balanced literacy may inadvertently slow the acquisition of phonics skills, which can make reading much more difficult - and far less enjoyable - for a 1st grade student.


If you’re looking for reading activities for 1st graders that are science-based and fun, we’ve got you covered.

Make Reading Fun for 1st Graders

Reading Activities for 1st Graders


To make reading more fun for 1st graders, consider trying one (or all!) of these literacy activities that merge 1st-grade fun with the latest reading science.


  1. Allow students to choose their own books. Keeping the difficulty level in mind, it’s important to allow students to choose books that reflect their interests and expose them to new ideas and stories. Whether they choose nonfiction, fiction, graphic novels, or Shel Silverstein’s poetry, any reading counts.
  2. Start a book club. What 1st grader doesn’t love a club? This is one of our favorite reading activities for 1st graders, for a number of reasons:
    1. Everyone can participate! All you need is a book and a supportive adult.
    2. Students can read the same book at once OR read different books and come to “club meetings” with new suggestions for their peers.
    3. Clubs encourage fun discussions, storytelling, and group bonding.
  3. Read aloud. By using expressive voices and silly faces, adult readers can help characters and stories come alive for their 1st graders.
  4. Connect with bookstores and the local library! Many public libraries and local bookstores offer free storytimes and author visits. Libraries may also sponsor summer reading programs with prizes and summer reading activities for 1st graders.
  5. Foster opinions. If you start a 1st grade book club, you may discover that your readers have a lot of opinions. Encourage students to share their thoughts about a book after reading it: you can use a star-rating system or simply ask how they’d change the story if they were the author.
make reading fun for children

In conjunction with a phonics-based curriculum, these reading activities for 1st graders are intended to make reading fun, exciting, and rewarding. By supporting students’ reading interests and foundational skills, educators and parents can become more active participants in the 1st-grade reading journey.



  • Many 1st graders struggle to find book formats and topics that interest them, and may face other reading challenges that detract from the joy of reading.
  • To make reading more fun and student-centered, consider the following 1st grade reading activities:
    • Empowering students to choose their own books
    • Starting a 1st grade book club
    • Reading aloud with expressive voices
    • Attending events sponsored by local bookstores and libraries
    • Encouraging students to freely express their opinions about books

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First Grade Struggling Reader? 4 Signs of Reading Struggles – and Solutions To Help

First Grade Struggling Reader? 4 Signs of Reading Struggles - and Solutions To Help

First grade marks a big year for young readers. At this stage of the reading journey, many parents are working closely with their children to support their reading success. As a parent, it’s easy to worry - and far more difficult to identify evidence-based solutions that actually support a struggling reader in first grade. By identifying the early signs of reading difficulty and collaborating with your first grader, you can rest easy - and read easily - during their first grade year.

helping First Grade Struggling Reader

Signs of Reading Difficulty in First Grade


Before we can identify a struggling first grade reader, it’s important to clarify: what are the key reading milestones for most first graders? No first grade reader is alike, but the majority will tackle the following reading skills at some point during their school year:


  • Word Manipulation: the ability to rhyme, solve word games, and recognize words that start with the same letter and/or sound.
  • Phonological Awareness: the ability to associate sounds and letters and work with sounds to form words.
    • This relates to word manipulation: a reader with strong phonological awareness will be able to rhyme, blending sounds together to form a word, and break words apart into their sound units.
  • Recognition of Common Words: halfway through their first grade year, most readers will be able to identify the most common sight words and phonetically decodable words.
  • Understanding Basic Sentence & Book Structure: this includes capitalization, basic punctuation, and comparing different stories, plots, and characters.


A struggling first grade reader may be falling behind in one or more of any of these reading skill areas. If you suspect that your first grader is struggling to read at grade-level, you may have noticed some of the following signs:


  1. Frequently skips words and rarely stops to sound out challenging words
  2. Struggles to remember common words despite frequently encountering them in decodable readers and other texts
  3. Guesses at unknown words and relies heavily on pictures, if applicable
  4. Struggles to remember and explain what happened in a story they just read


As always, we repeat the mantra: no first grade reader is the same! That said, most first grade parents will notice at least one of these early signs of reading difficulty.

Signs of Reading Struggles

How to Help a First Grader Struggling With Reading


First grade is a foundational year for reading - but it’s completely normal for first grade readers to experience some struggles and setbacks. To support them through the early reading process, educators and parents can team up with their readers & take the following actions:


  1. Collaborate with teachers. If you’re the parent of a struggling first grade reader, you’ll quickly learn that your child’s teacher is the co-captain of your early reading team. If possible, check in with teachers regularly about the reading progress and setbacks you observe after school. Your child’s teacher can affirm your concerns and offer unique observations that you may not see at home.
  2. Create a reading goal chart. Clearly writing down your first grader’s reading goals can help motivate and inspire them on a daily basis. Place the chart in a visible place at home or in the classroom, and cheer your first grader on with praise and/or small rewards as they meet their reading goals.
  3. Use supplemental reading programs. Your first grader may not want to hear this now, but reading doesn’t end at school! Phonics-based reading programs such as Reading Teacher help students practice first grade reading skills through engaging stories, games, and discussion prompts.
  4. Don’t forget writing. As students progress in school, they’ll discover that reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Writing also presents another opportunity to enrich the early reading journey. Help your student write fun stories and draw illustrations, and reference books they’ve completed as inspiration for the plots and characters.
solutions for Struggling Reader

Even when first graders are struggling, it’s essential to keep reading fun! Struggling first grade readers should be encouraged to choose books and topics that interest them, motivate them to read more, and build their overall confidence as readers and students.



  • Most first graders are developing foundational reading skills such as:
    • Word manipulation
    • Phonological awareness
    • Recognition of common words: both decodable and sight words
    • Understanding the basic structure of books & sentences
  • Struggling first grade readers tend to fall behind in these main reading skill areas. To support them toward their reading goals, parents can:
    • Collaborate & communicate regularly with teachers
    • Use reading goal charts to visualize students’ progress
    • Supplement with online reading programs
    • Encourage the development of writing skills

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Developing Readers vs. Emergent Readers

Developing Readers vs. Emergent Readers

Emergent readers, developing readers, beginning readers: as a parent or teacher, where do you even begin?


Throughout the years, experts have developed a range of terms to describe readers in the earliest stages of their literacy journeys. Today, we’re clarifying the differences - and similarities - between developing readers vs. emerging readers, followed by a discussion of how this language shapes our understanding of how children learn to read.


Differences Between Developing Vs. Emergent Readers


Before we dig into the differences between a developing reader and an emergent reader, it’s crucial to answer: what is a developing reader? While definitions vary, we’ve identified a few key characteristics:


  • A developing reader is learning the basics of reading such as decoding, phonics, the alphabet, and sight words that are essential for long-term literacy.
  • A developing reader is making the transition to longer books with more complicated plotlines. Before they know it, they’ll bid goodbye to picture books and hello to chapter books.
  • Critically, a developing reader is evolving into a more skilled and confident reader.


Reading experts debate whether there is a significant difference between developing readers and emergent readers. Whereas the use of “developing reader” emphasizes that young readers are developing the foundational skills that will support lifelong literacy, an “emergent reader” is truly emerging into a new territory of reading potential. The excitement of an emergent reader is worth noting. While you might not remember the first time you read a book, rediscovering your zest for reading alongside a child is refreshing for all parties involved.

Developing Readers vs. Emergent Readers

The key characteristics of emergent readers are similar to those identified among developing readers. Parents and educators may notice that their emergent readers:


  • Recognize and point out high-frequency words, both in books and during everyday travel to school, home, and other familiar destinations
  • Write in scribbles and/or incoherent strings of letters
  • Show a strong desire to read and listen to others read


Ultimately, most experts agree that emergent readers fall under the category of developing readers: technically, anyone who reads could be considered a developing reader, as we are all strengthening our comprehension and writing skills well into adulthood. There may not be a significant difference between emergent readers and developing readers - and that’s perfectly okay. Because language used to describe reading development can be complicated, supportive adults are encouraged to meet their readers at “eye-level” with age-appropriate reading strategies.


Reading Strategies for Emergent Readers


For an emergent reader, struggling and overcoming are both part of the process. Emergent readers are working on lots of goals: they’re learning more letters of the alphabet, expanding their perspectives through new books, and taking big steps toward writing. To support an emergent reader, literacy experts suggest the following reading strategies to help them advance toward reading fluency.

Developing Readers

1. Identify the title, author, and illustrator of their favorite books.

Imagine yourself as a five year-old and take a good look at your child’s favorite picture book. For an emergent reader, there’s a lot of information to digest - and that’s only on the cover! Get your child used to reading the title, author, and illustrator of a book. This helps set the stage for what they’re about to read and helps them understand the basic purpose and structure of the book.


2. Use read-aloud books to help children increase their phonemic awareness.

By using books specifically designed for adults and children to read aloud together, emergent readers will gain a firmer grasp of the relationship between letters and sounds- otherwise known as phonemic awareness.


3. After the last page, talk about the book!

The end of the book marks the beginning of a meaningful discussion. Encourage your reader to talk about major events in the story, the resolution of any conflicts, and their favorite parts and characters. These concluding conversations will enhance their reading comprehension and overall engagement in the story.


Clarifying the difference between emerging readers vs. developing readers is just the beginning. Ultimately, these shifts in phrasing are usually more important for adults to understand than the readers themselves. When working with emergent readers, we’re regularly reminded that reading is an ongoing journey toward understanding & sharing stories with others.

Emergent Readers


  • The definitions of developing and emergent readers are mostly similar. While the phrases are often used interchangeably, educators emphasize that emergent readers are progressing toward the developmental stage of reading fluency.
  • Emergent readers are typically:
    • Learning the alphabet
    • Writing in scribbles
    • Reading and memorizing their favorite books with the help of an adult
  • Some helpful strategies for emergent readers include reading aloud, discussing books they’ve read, and finding the title, author, and illustrator to uncover the book’s basic structure.

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First Grade Reading Lesson Plans

First Grade Reading Lesson Plans

As we inch our way into August, teachers are beginning to hear their favorite back-to-school buzzwords. Among them?

Lesson Plans

Whether you’re a parent or educator of a first grader, designing the best first grade reading plans can pose a serious challenge. Especially when your first grader is in “summer mode,” even broaching the subject of lesson plans can feel scary to adults and children alike. To minimize stress on the first day of school, it’s best to identify and gradually build a reading plan that includes the main learning points of developing readers (link) in first grade. First grade reading can and should be fun - and our ideas for grade-appropriate lesson plans are designed to maximize fun, learning, and self-confidence in the first-grade classroom.

Reading Lesson Plans for children

What Do 1st Graders Learn in Reading?


Many first graders are emergent readers, which means they’re just beginning to learn the basics of reading. Every child varies in their rate of reading progress, but many first graders will accomplish several key reading goals by the end of their academic year. In anticipation of these milestones, you can expect students to work on the following skills in a standard first-grade reading lesson plan:


  1. Sounding out syllables to break up words and read them aloud.
  2. Understanding and explaining the basic features of a sentence, such as the first words, first letter of a word, and rules of capitalization.
  3. Recognizing common sight words that enhance overall reading fluency.
  4. Explaining the basic difference between fiction and non-fiction texts.
  5. Identifying different characters, events, and main ideas in a book.
  6. Recognizing digraphs: two letters that represent one sound, such as gh, th, and sh.


Remember: these are overarching skills that many readers - but not all - develop during their first-grade year. When teachers consider how to teach 1st-grade reading, they are encouraged to consider these common developmental skills and the unique needs of their students, which may call for different reading goals and lesson plans.

Reading Lesson Plans

First Grade Reading Lesson Plans Example


When designing a first grade reading lesson plan, the first thing teachers must identify are the learning objectives. Whether students are learning to read at home or in the classroom, all lesson plans should include learning objectives that clearly outline the goal of the reading lesson. For a first-grade reader, learning objectives may include:


  • Increasing reading comprehension by identifying the story elements of a text: usually, the characters, setting, and main events
  • Reading grade-level words with irregular spellings, such as
  • Understanding the many jobs of the “Silent E”


After defining the learning objectives, a first grade reading lesson plan will typically include the following features:


  • Specific planned activities that address the learning objectives
  • The sequence of these activities and any assessments to check students’ progress
  • A realistic timeline for the lesson to be completed
  • A plan for closing the lesson: this may include reflection questions for the students and/or the teacher(s) to create a sense of closure and begin the transition to the next lesson
Reading Lesson Plans for First Grade

How To Teach 1st-Grade Reading


No first grader - or any reader, for that matter - learns to read in the same way. That said, we advocate several expert-endorsed reading activities to support a range of first graders toward their reading goals. As you design a first grade reading lesson plan rooted in the science of reading, consider the following 1st-grade reading activities to boost your students’ reading success:


  • Expressive Reading: When reading books aloud, use different voices for different characters and narrators to model expression and pacing in a story. Doing this with a group of readers will make reading feel more like a show and less of a chore!
  • Reading Notebook: Encourage students to be their own “reading scientists” by recording new words and reading observations in a “reading notebook.” A homemade notebook with their own words and illustrations will make the reading journey feel like a special mission.
  • Write a Book: Who said first-graders are too young to publish a novel? Encourage creativity and challenge their writing chops by asking students to write and illustrate a story from their lives. This common first-grade reading activity gets students excited to read, write, and share their personal stories with friends and loved ones.
First Grade Reading Lesson Plans


  • Most first graders are still developing basic reading skills such as recognizing sight words, breaking down words based on their syllables, and understanding the basic features of a story.
  • To solidify these skills, teachers and parents are encouraged to design first grade reading lesson plans that target these grade-level skills, while also considering the varied needs and interests of individual readers.
  • Using a combination of creativity, group discussion, and playful storytelling, the best first grade reading activities will enhance young readers’ skills and excitement about reading.

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Access Level 1’s four interactive stories and the accompanying supplemental resources to teach elementary students how to read. No credit card is needed. Join the 42,635 teachers and students using our reading program.

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