4 Simple Ways to Help Your 1st Grader Read

Sep 7, 2023 | News | 0 comments

When I was a first grade teacher, I was asked by parents every school year, “How can I help my child learn how to read?” Worried and anxious parents would come up to me at the end of curriculum night, nervous to share that they did not do as much reading as they had intended over the summer, and wanted to make sure they went home that night prepared to start a new reading routine with their son or daughter. Of course, I offered them many suggestions which I will share with you here as well, but I also shared with them some observations that I had made over my years of teaching. First graders start the year at a wide range of reading levels. Some kids enter first grade reading full sentences with beautiful fluency, while other kids start the year barely being able to put together CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words or recognize sight words. By the end of the year, however, most are confident readers. No matter what, first grade is the perfect time for children to develop a love of reading and getting lost in books. We want to make sure the experience is a positive one. Below are four ways you can help your son our daughter learn to love reading.

4 ways to help 


Ask your child’s teacher

If your son or daughter is struggling to read as a first grader, what can you do at home to help? First, ask your child’s teacher how you can help them read at home! One of the best ways to help is to mirror what they are working on in the classroom. Does your child’s teacher send home a newsletter or homework? These should give you a good idea of what the class is currently learning and you can piggyback off of that at home. Let’s say the class is learning about the /th/ digraph. A simple search online for “digraph th worksheets” will provide you with ample supplemental materials that you can use with your child. Because they are working on it in class, it won’t be a new concept for your child and will reinforce what they are already learning!

Read books together at home

One of the easiest ways to help your 1st grader read at home is by reading books they love together. Too often parents focus on the mechanics of reading that they overlook the joy of reading. Is there a particular series or type of book your child gravitates towards? Spend time each night reading those books together! When parents read aloud to their children, they are teaching them how to read by modeling fluency and expression. Through reading books together, parents can ask comprehension questions related to the book to encourage their child to think deeply about what they are reading. “Why did that character feel so happy at the end?”

“What would you have done differently?” These kinds of questions encourage children to think about the meaning and lessons of the books they read.


Girl and her mother reading a book together


Practice sight words

Sight words, also called high frequency words or heart words, have become a central topic in early childhood education with regard to how to teach them in a way that is developmentally appropriate for 1st graders. Many schools and teachers continue to give their students long lists of sight words that students must know by sight (or by heart) upon looking at them by the end of the school year. These words are important in helping a 1st grader learn how to read because they are seen so frequently in their books. Equally important, however, is phonics-based instruction. Many sight words can be decoded using phonics rules, and it is important to use these rules when appropriate to help your son or daughter learn the sight words. Decodable sight words include and, be, and go, for example. Non-decodable sight word examples include are, come, and do. When teaching your child sight words at home, it is also important to remember to only teach a few at a time, teach them in context, and review them often.

Hire a private tutor!

If the above suggestions sound overwhelming or you simply do not have the time to implement them on your own, hiring a private tutor is highly recommended. Not only does it take the burden off of you, but you also have the advantage of having an educator familiar with the content and curriculum helping your child. Here at Simpson Tutors we receive many requests from parents who report that trying to help their son or daughter with reading has become a battle, no longer enjoyable, and full of tears and frustration. This is the exact opposite of what reading should look like! Our tutors are experienced educators who know how to use tutoring sessions to provide thoughtful reading instruction in a way that is fun and engaging. So many of our families wish they had hired a private tutor sooner.

Our private tutors always start with an assessment to get a baseline understanding of what your child needs support with specifically. From there they are able to hone in on different reading strategies, activities, and exercises that are specific to your child’s needs and will help make your child a stronger and more confident reader. Tutoring sessions are typically one hour long and most families meet with their tutor once or twice a week. If a child needs a lot of support, we recommend at least two sessions a week. No two tutoring sessions are the same, and all of our tutors have their own unique touch they bring to their tutoring sessions. When you call us to schedule your phone consultation, we will make sure to match your child with the tutor that is the best fit for them.


Frequently Asked Questions about Reading:


How old are most kids when they start reading?

Some kids may show an interest in letters and words as early as 2 or 3 years old, but most kids begin to develop basic reading skills between the ages of 4 and 7. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, some children start to read when they are 4 or 5 years old, but most kids learn how to read by the time they are 6 or 7 years old. Sometimes kids start reading before their peers but then their peers catch up to them by second or third grade.

Is it normal for a 1st grader to not be able to read? What grade can most kids read?

Most children learn how to read by the end of first grade, but there are a lot of factors to consider: Did your child learn phonemic awareness in kindergarten? Did they start first grade already behind their peers? Is your child receiving explicit phonics instruction at school? Does your child have access to books at school that are reinforcing the phonics and reading instruction being taught? How well is writing instruction being implemented? Are you practicing reading at home as well? These are all important questions to think about as they relate to your child’s reading ability.

What should my child be able to read in 1st grade? What words should a 6 or 7 year old be able to read?

In 1st grade, children typically develop a range of reading skills and should be able to read and understand various types of texts. The specific words and reading abilities of 6 and 7 year olds can vary, but in general, a first grader should be able to read commonly used sight words and simple sentences with decodable words and basic spelling patterns. A 1st grader should be able to read short books designed for beginning readers. They should also have the ability to answer questions about the books they are reading to show their understanding of the text.

How quickly should kids learn sight words? Why can’t my child remember sight words?

There is no set timeline for how quickly kids should learn sight words because each child’s development is unique. There might be some words that your child learns quickly and others that take more time. The more practice and reinforcement your child receives, the better. If your child is struggling to remember sight words, try using multi-sensory games and activities and repeat often.

Why does my first grader hate reading?

It is very common for some first graders to say they hate reading. There could be several reasons why your child feels this way and it’s important to get professional help when needed. Sometimes parents unknowingly create extra pressure or stress around reading, and it no longer is enjoyable for the child. If you find yourself getting frustrated when reading with your child, it’s time to stop and let a tutor take over. It is so important for children to enjoy learning how to read. We don’t want them to associate it with stress or performance anxiety. Many families reach out to Simpson Tutors because their child lacks confidence. A lack of confidence can play a huge role in whether or not a child enjoys reading. Our tutors provide students with ample positive reinforcement and scaffold appropriately so the students learn and make progress without losing confidence.Perhaps your child just hasn’t found a genre or type of book that interests them yet. Sometimes the beginner reader books can feel boring and tedious for some kids. Your child could have an undiagnosed learning disability which makes it more difficult for them, such as dyslexia, ADD, or ADHD. Your child could have an undiagnosed vision problem that is making reading uncomfortable or challenging.

Do your private tutors help with reading comprehension?

Another component in learning how to read is reading comprehension. Not only is it important for 1st graders to be able to decode the words on a page, but they also need to be able to understand and make sense of what they are reading. If your 1st grader is struggling with reading comprehension, our private tutors can help.

How do I know if my child is dyslexic?

According to the Child Mind Institute, a child with dyslexia might struggle to learn simple rhymes, have a speech delay, have trouble following directions, or repeat or omit short words such as and, the, and but. At school, children with dyslexia are likely to struggle with sounding out new words and reading with fluency. They might reverse letters or numbers when reading (for example, they’ll read saw as was). Associating sounds with letters, sequencing and ordering may be difficult. They might stumble or have difficulty spelling common words. If your child is in first grade and still struggling with reading, their school can test them for dyslexia. You can also get an outside evaluation from a psychologist, reading specialist, or speech therapist.

Pascale Simpson

Pascale Simpson

Who am I?

I am a former teacher turned tutor and now owner of Simpson Tutors. I am passionate about making sure young children have a strong foundation in preschool and elementary because those are the building blocks for the rest of their future. These days I split my time between Miami and New York, connecting families with tutors that are just as passionate about teaching and fostering a love of learning in young children

My Background

Before I was a teacher, I worked with young children while I was an undergraduate student at New York University. Upon graduating with my major in Sociology, I decided to pursue graduate school at Hunter College to become a teacher. During my graduate studies, I began teaching as an associate teacher at Beginnings Nursery School in Gramercy. I taught children ages three and four, and was immersed in the Reggio Emilia approach. I witnessed how meaningful it was for children's interests to be able to guide their learning and carried this with me throughout my teaching career. I then went on to become an associate teacher at LREI (formerly known as Little Red School House) in Manhattan to work with slightly older students and fell in love with teaching kindergarten. I love being a part of the foundational years where children are learning how to read and write, making sense of the world, and learning how to navigate social skills.

I completed my master's degree in Early Childhood Education and received my teaching certification from New York State because I realized the impact that a quality early childhood education has on the rest of a child's academic years. I went on to become a founding teacher at Compass Charter School, a progressive play-based and student-centered charter school in Brooklyn, NY where I continued to teach kindergarten and first grade. From there I went on to teach kindergarten and first grade at PS 29 in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. It was there that I started to tutor my former students from previous schools. I quickly realized the importance and value of one-on-one learning.

My Teaching Philosophy

When I was a kindergarten and first grade teacher, it was so important to me that the children in my classroom were having fun and enjoying learning. My classroom door was always open and the kids could be heard from down the hall singing, laughing, and chatting animatedly. Of course, when it was time for quiet and focus, they understood this just as well. I believe it's so important for children to feel invested in their learning. As an educator, it is so rewarding to see the wheels turning as a five or six year old is working hard to try and solve a problem or think about a character in a book. What I love about private tutoring is the ability to tailor each tutoring session to each specific child and meet them where they are from session to session. You quickly realize what works for one student might not work for another. Each child has their own interests and motivators and it's so important to get to know them on an individual level.

What Makes Simpson Tutors Different

I started Simpson Tutors because there wasn't another tutoring company that specialized in early childhood and elementary education. Sure there are plenty of K to 12 companies, but oftentimes these companies hire educators that are more suited for middle and high schoolers. As amazing as they may be, they don't know how to work with young kids. It takes years of experience to be able to understand how the young mind works and to be able to teach in a way that they can understand. Sometimes parents will call us and they feel a bit embarrassed at the idea of hiring a reading tutor for their five year old, but even to this day when I go to a workshop or event focused on early literacy, I learn something new. To be a skilled and effective elementary teacher takes time. There are actually so many little tools and tricks that we've acquired that make it look like a breeze!