Sounds. Words. Sentences. The first year of grade school is all too exciting for young readers and writers. In the grand scheme of education, First Grade language lessons present themselves as a novel opportunity for children to savor all the sounds of the alphabet and start exploring their wide-ranging combinations. Before long, students come to the wonderful realization that these isolated scribbles actually signify sounds, which result in words, and which then align to create sentences of all shapes and sizes. Suffice to say, first grade (widely considered the pillar of all elementary level studies) is an exciting time for the discovery of language. Moreover, it is a pivotal time for parents and teachers to inspire children to read, not only as part of their studies but as a pleasurable and essential habit. This stage is characterized by their initial understanding of simple illustrated books and stories, articles, and other sources of information, but it is up to the parents to plant the seed of good reading habits. However, if you child is less than enthused about this process of phonetic discovery, here are some practical recommendations to spark first grade reading habits:
1. Share reading with your child:
This basic activity is a crucial piece of parenting (and most educators share the notion that it will forever remain as one of the most important). Time spent together reading not only establishes reading as a healthy and relaxing exercise but also strengthens family bonds. I cannot stress this enough, parents: make time (whatever amount you can afford), to read to and with your child. Now that he or she is in the early stages of becoming a proficient reader, this can become more of a shared activity (for example, take turns reading pages of a book).
2. Always keep reading materials at your child’s reach:
Fill your house with a variety of reading materials, and encourage your young reader to develop the great habit of reading by leading by example. Reading should always be viewed as a fun and positive activity, and never as punishment or a chore.
3. Make a Summer Scrapbook:
At the start of the school year, make a scrapbook of your first-grader’s summer vacation, including photos and items related to activities he or she took part in. Ask your child to tell you about the places each item came from, including the reason for the visit and was most memorable each day. Jot down all stories and memories (capturing their exact words as much as possible).
4. Always Carry Reading Materials:
Never leave home without reading materials, for both you and your first-grader. Always having a book or a magazine on hand for moments like a wait at a doctor’s office, a long car ride, or just waiting in the car to pick up a sibling helps your child understand that reading is an enjoyable activity. In case of emergency, a tablet is acceptable, but a go-to book is always a solid choice.
5. Allow easy access to writing supplies:
Great writing is the necessary counterpart for great readers. Encourage their penmanship and allow them to explore language by making sure that your children have easy access to the tools and supplies they will need to practice their new writing skills. Have a range of supplies on hand to make writing fun, such as different-colored pens, crayons, colored paper, and dry-erase boards.
6. Encourage Writing Through Lists:
Encourage your child to practice writing by making lists. Make sure that writing is not something that is viewed as a just a school activity or homework. Give him or her reasons to write, for example by making lists. Encourage him or her to help with the grocery shopping by writing a list. For holidays or birthdays, ask your children to write a list of presents they would like or have them compile a list of the chores they are responsible for.
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7. Highlight the practicality of writing:
Show your child the practical use of writing by helping him or her compose short reminder notes at home or letters to other family members. When children see that writing serves a useful purpose, they are more likely to try it and to initiate writing on their own.
8. Value Your Child’s Writing:
Encourage your 1st grader to draw a picture and write a story that goes along with it, using any scribbling, characters, or spelling that makes sense to her. Display the result, as you do her artwork, by posting it on the fridge or framing it and putting it on your desk. This helps her see that you value her writing and think it is important.
9. Don’t Correct All Spelling Mistakes:
Don’t go overboard in correcting your child’s early efforts at writing. In the same way that, when he or she was learning to talk, you didn’t correct every pronunciation error or grammatical mistake, now that she’s learning to write, you don’t want to inhibit the student by focusing too much on what is wrong. If you correct every error, beginning writers will start to close up, so by allowing them more latitude encourages them to view writing as a fun activity and not work.
10. Play Simple Word Games:
Play simple word games with your first-grader. For example, when you’re on the road, have your student spot words on signs that begin with a certain letter.
What else works for you?
These are just a handful of everyday techniques for busy parents, perfect for after-school and weekend quality time. In my experience as an educator, one of my biggest challenges was to inspire students inside the classroom, mostly due to lack of encouragement at home. This is also true for homeschoolers, as it is possible to develop a strong love for books outside of lesson times. Send us your feedback and more recommendations in the comment box below!
about the author:
Professor Scott Douglas is a retired school teacher and writer, as well as an avid pet lover and musician. After 30 years instilling love for literature in students, Mr. Douglas now spends most of his days with his nose in a book, on nature hikes or strolling with his grandkids (and his 3 four-legged kids).