How to Teach Phonics to First-Graders At Home

Red Cat Reading Team Blog, Reading, Red Cat Reading

Children who are in first grade or going to first grade during the new school year tend to have already learned some phonics in kindergarten and preschool. For these children, the building blocks for phonics and basic reading skills might already be in place. When planning to teach phonics to first graders, remember it’s important to continue polishing and expanding on these bits of knowledge. You should review concepts that have already been taught and work on newer concepts that are about to be taught in the child’s classroom.

Since you’ve likely already spent a good deal of time on basic phonics skills, your child probably has a strong foundation of basic phonics concepts such as single letter sounds and rhyming words. With this foundation, there are plenty of new activities, games, and ways to exercise the knowledge and build onto it. This will allow your child to grasp new concepts and further explore the world of reading!

1. Reviewing the Basics

Just because your child has learned something, doesn’t mean that you can move on without doing a review from time to time to make sure that he or she has retained information. Reviewing can be simple – creating or downloading worksheets, going over flashcards, writing words, and reading books that he or she has already mastered. There are a great deal of workbooks on the market that are intended for reviewing skills that a child has already learned in school. These make great additions to homework assignments or during summer vacation. Pick up workbooks in both a kindergarten and a first-grade level, as they can help review the basics in case it is necessary, as well as gain some new skills.

2. Pick up Some New Books!

Whether you would enjoy spending hours pouring over library books, checking some out, and bringing them home, or you prefer to take your child to the bookstore to purchase a few new books, make sure that he or she is selecting books at their level. There are plenty of books out there that market themselves as “first time readers,” and these can be valuable tools in your child’s education. Since books can be expensive, check out some recommended reading lists or visit the library.

You can find many digital books for free at

3. Talk to Your Child’s Teacher

A conversation with your child’s teacher can make a huge difference in your child’s learning. Set up a specific meeting time with the teacher and go in to discuss what your child is currently learning and what they will be working on in the future. Talk about what kinds of books they will be working with, and ask for recommendations of stories and activities to use at home. This will ensure that you are working on the correct things and will be a fantastic help for the child’s teacher as well!

4. Make Stories More Exciting

Engaging your children in reading stories can make your time more memorable and enjoyable. Do simple things, such as letting your children provide the sound effects for the animals, or reading the characters’ words in unique voices. Ask your children questions about what they’re reading. For example, question them on what they think is going to happen next in the story, or ask how a certain event makes them feel. Asking them questions while reading can help you make sure their listening skills are developing well, and can let you know if you need to spice up the story in case they are losing interest.

You can even volunteer for story time at your local library and read stories to smaller children. This might take some encouragement and practice, but it can be a great way to share the joys of reading with other children in the community and really boost your child’s confidence.

5.  Utilize Tablets and Smartphones

Tablets and smartphones can be helpful tools in your child’s education, if the device is used correctly and for ideal periods of time. There are countless learning apps and videos available out there; many of them teaching phonics skills and reading.

Take a look at and sign up for your FREE account! Your child can learn phonics on any digital device; with 10 different levels.

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If you are worried about your child having free access to the tablet and wandering the web or getting into apps you’d rather they didn’t, many companies make specific tablets for young children. Also, almost every tablet comes equipped with a variety of parental controls that are vital for keeping kids safe! Allowing your child to use these devices for short periods throughout the day (while you are on an important phone call, for instance), can be a great tool for learning – and if you are worried about how often they use it, a lot of tablets also have a built-in timer for how long the child is permitted to access it.

6. Play games

Playing games with your children is the kind of thing that they will remember for years to come, and those memories will always be cherished. With the large amount of games available on the market that teach letters and reading, you should be able to find some great games that can hold your child’s attention. Most toy stores carry a variety, and what you can’t find in store, you can find online at different retailers. You can also create your own games at home using household items, like construction paper, markers, and playing cards. 

7. Build Confidence

Don’t forget to encourage and praise your child for their reading performance as often as possible. Children who are reluctant to learn to read often lose motivation when their confidence is low. Reading is an educational activity that may put pressure on some children that can cause them to reject learning to read. To help avoid this, be sure to show your child that reading is fun and not just a necessary life skill. Read a variety of books and different genres to find out what your child enjoys reading the most and be sure to give them lots of encouragement. 

Also, if your child is not yet able to read the words on the page, let him or her “read” the pictures and tell you the story. As you go, you could identify some words throughout the story and help your child understand that words have meaning. This technique reminds children that reading is fun and will help build excitement for when he or she is able to read.

8.  Consistency is Key!

Teaching your child phonics skills and reading isn’t going to happen overnight. It is a process that is going to take a great deal of time and devotion, so make sure to keep going! Use workbooks on a daily basis and help your child learn to sound out words. Keep reviewing what your child has learned, even when it seems as if he or she already has a good grasp on it. Make learning a part of your child’s daily routine. Practice is key at this stage!

9. Watch Some Story-Time Shows

There are a number of tv series out there that help to instill the love of reading in young children. In the past, Reading Rainbow was a hugely popular show where the host LeVar Burton read a variety of children’s books to viewers. These days, there are shows like ‘Bookmarks’ where hosts read popular children’s books that inspire self-confidence and positivity. Shows like these can play a big part in a child’s interest in reading and should be added to your child’s list of shows to watch. They may be more likely to pick up a book after watching some episodes!

10. Be Present 

Be an active participant in your child’s reading experience. Parents these days have a lot on their plate and many responsibilities outside the realm of their children’s education. It can be tough to find a good work-family life balance to begin with, so how can you help your child reach their full reading potential? It can be as easy as reading a story together before bed every night, or asking your child to help read a recipe with you. There are little opportunities to practice reading everyday that don’t have to feel like a chore. Inviting your child to read print on something that you’re using or looking at can make them feel that they are being helpful by reading and help build confidence. So even if it’s tough to make time for reading, see if you can’t find little ways everyday to invite your child to read with you.

While children who are going to first grade or who are already in first grade tend to already have a decent grasp on phonics skills, it is important to keep helping them along and providing them with new opportunities to learn. Reviewing, talking to your child’s teacher, and reading together are the best tools that you have to help your child take this amazing journey into reading!