Getting Your First Grader Excited About Reading!
~ Emily Cash – First Grade Teacher at Oak Hill Academy
We all know it can be a challenge to get your first grader excited about reading. After a long day at school comes homework, practice, and playdates. The last thing our child wants to do is sit down and read with you for 20 minutes. Here in first grade at Oak Hill Academy in Lincroft, New Jersey, we make it a priority to help our students develop a love for reading! However, there are things you can do at home to help foster that love for reading outside the classroom.
The first grade classrooms at Oak Hill Academy have libraries set up for the students. The libraries have a wide selection of books from different genres, authors, and reading levels. When our students are in the classroom, they are taught how to search and identify the perfect book to read. By having a personal library at home, you can help foster “easier reading” at home.
Start by having a designated place to store all your child’s books at home. Make sure that all of your books are arranged in some sort of order. For example, have the books grouped by author, genre, or reading level. Make sure to either label the books, or go over them with your child. Once your child is familiar with their personal library, they will have a much easier time selecting a book to read. A rule of thumb I like to use with my students is: if the book has more than three words on the page that they don’t understand, it is too hard for them. They need to put that book back and select another one.
Now that there is a designed library at home, sit down and have a simple conversation with your child about what books they like to read. If they are having a hard time, prompt them with books you have read together before or with books from the library. Get an idea of what your child likes to read and begin to fill your library with those types of books. Scholastic has great book selections or go to your public library and check out some books to start!
The more your child is interested in the books, they more they will want to read!
Change Up Your Routine
If you are always reading at night, right before bed, your child might start to dread reading time. Try changing up your routine. Read with your child at a different time of the day or in a different setting. For example, have a cozy corner in your house. Make it fun and inviting with pillows and blankets. We have a cozy corner in our classroom where students can bring their book with a pillow and read quietly. My students know the cozy corner is not for playing or talking, but for getting lost in a good book, and they love it!
You could also read with your child outside at a park, in a tree house, or make a tent and read in there with a flash light. There are so many ways to be creative with reading at home that will get your child excited to open a book! One idea that I love and works well in my classroom is Flash Light Friday. Special Fridays out of the year, the students get to bring in a flash light and a book of their choice. For 15 minutes, I turn out all the lights. The students get to read their books in the darkness with their flash lights on.
Some other great ideas are:
- Record them as they read and play it back for them so they can see and hear themselves. You could even have them challenge themselves after they watch the video to record themselves reading the same book again but see if they can do it with better fluency or expression.
- Have them read aloud to a younger sibling, cousin, grandparent, neighbor, etc.
- Have them read to aloud to a pet.
- Saving Books For Later
An issue that comes up in the classroom from time to time is books that are too hard to read. I have had students select a book that looks interesting to them, but once they start to read it, they discover it’s too hard. They then begin to get discouraged and don’t want to read anymore. A simple solution that I have found effective is saving that book for later.
I will explain to the student that I think the book is too hard to read right now. Instead of taking the book away and making them pick a new one, I read the first couple of pages to them to get them hooked on the book. Then I tell them how we are going to save this special book for another time. Doing this is much better than having them pick a new book right away.
By allowing them to read it at a later time, the child still feels like their book choice was validated and that they were able to still hear part of the book that they chose. They also know that that book is waiting there for them to finish reading at another time when they can comprehend it easier. Once you have done this, help them select a new book that is similar in genre or subject as the previous book. That way they are still able to read a book they are interested in, verses one their parents are making them read. All of this helps to still capture that excitement for reading!
Becoming Their Own Authors
Here at Oak Hill Academy, we know that reading and writing go hand in hand. We promote writing not only in language arts, but across all subjects! You can walk into our classrooms or down our hallways and see them filled with student writing!
This promotion of writing can be carried over at home because great way to help with reading fluency is writing. Have your child write their own story or book at home. For example, say your child loves outer space. Have them read a story they want about outer space to you or with your help. Once they have finished the book, and you have talked about it, encourage them to write their own. Having your child think about how they want the sequence of their story to go, the characters, the setting, etc. they will in return start to notice these elements in their reading. All of this ties together to help drastically improve their reading comprehension. Bonus, it helps with their overall writing as well!
Tip: I know writing a book can seem like a hard task to get your first grader to do. However, just like getting them engaged and excited about reading, you can do that with writing too. A great way to get your child excited about writing is have them become real authors and “publish” their stories. Have your child write their story, but have them write their final copy special paper. Depending on their typing skills, they could even type up and print their story. Another way to publish their story could be by having them record and/or make a video of themselves telling their own story. Of course, they can illustrate their favorite part of their story to tie it all together!