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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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Know a Struggling Reader in 1st Grade? 4 Strategies That Just Might Work

Know a Struggling Reader in 1st Grade? 4 Strategies That Just Might Work

1st grade is a time of exploration, play, social development, and, crucially, learning how to read. In anticipation of summertime - and, hopefully, more reading time - we’re outlining common reading goals and strategies to support struggling readers in 1st grade.

Helping a Struggling Reader

1st Grade Reading Goalsfor Struggling Reader


If your 1st grade reader is struggling, it might be time to adjust their reading goals and introduce new strategies to guide them toward success. Throughout the year and into the summer, there are several common reading goals for first graders to work toward:


  1. Learning common sight words.

Sight words are often defined as words that kids can’t sound out with phonics, such as the, who, one, and you. Other high-frequency words are easier to sound out: think “it,” “run,” “like,” “can,” and others. While memorization of these words should not replace phonemic awareness, increasing first graders’ familiarity with high-frequency, one-syllable words can boost their reading confidence.


  1. Answering questions about books they’ve read.

After each reading session, adults can facilitate a “mini book club” by asking the child questions about the book, helping them summarize the story, and generally discussing the book, all of which show the child’s understanding of the content.


  1. Developing a love for reading.

For a first grade struggling reader, nurturing their love for literature may seem like a lofty goal. Yet for parents and teachers, there’s no need to stress: developing a passion for books is a long-term goal! To get a headstart, offer regular and frequent exposure to books and decodable readers that align with the child’s skills and individual interests. Dinosaurs, fairies, big cats, you name it: there’s a book for your first grader.

Strategies for Helping a Struggling Reader

How to Help My Struggling 1st Grader in Reading


After setting these reading goals, there are numerous strategies to help struggling readers in first grade transform into second grade superstars.


  1. Set individualized reading goals.

Make a reading goal chart, tracker, or even a paper chain link with one reading goal written on each link. For struggling readers in first grade, being able to visualize and check off their reading goals makes success more tangible and exciting.


  1. Establish reading time - and make it fun.

Imagine: just 10-15 minutes every day can. Make reading a daily habit by making it fun: read as a family in a quiet and cozy corner of the house, and discuss your books after the timer goes off.


  1. Visit the library this summer.

School is out, which means the library is IN. Many local libraries sponsor summer reading challenges and events to support students of all abilities, including struggling readers in first grade and other age groups.


  1. Find creative ways to read.

With the help of an adult, first graders can draw and write their own books - then read them out loud to others as newly “published” authors. Families can watch movies together with subtitles to encourage subconscious reading. And don’t shy away from graphic novels and other nontraditional reads: for a first grader, any reading is good reading.


Even for struggling readers in 1st grade, meeting their reading goals is possible when educators and parents meet them at eye-level. From an adult perspective, this means regularly checking in with your first grader, identifying their reading strengths and weaknesses, and modifying reading activities to reflect their goals and personal interests. No first grader is the same - and that’s what makes their reading journey both challenging and rewarding.

Struggling Readers


  • If you’re wondering how to help a struggling reader in 1st grade, it’s important to understand & establish common reading goals for first graders: among them, recognizing high-frequency sight words and showing signs of reading comprehension.
  • For 1st graders who are struggling to keep up with their peers, adults can adopt several strategies, including:
    • Using visual tools to track reading progress
    • Establishing reading time as a family or classroom
    • Taking advantage of the local library
    • Combining art and reading, using subtitles during movies, and finding other creative ways to sneak reading into your child’s everyday routine

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.