Reading Teacher

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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