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First grade girl reading book in class

Reading 101 for Parents: Your First Grader

Discover the typical literacy milestones for your first grader, and how to support your child’s developing skills in reading and writing. Use the links on the left to find activities, videos, and other resources to build skills in these key areas: recognizing the sounds in speech, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing.

Literacy milestones

In this section, you’ll get an overview of the reading and writing skills that are typical for 6-year-olds. Remember that kids develop at different rates, so don’t be worried if your child isn’t doing some of these things yet. If you do have concerns, talk to your pediatrician, your child’s teacher, or the reading specialist at school.

If you’re concerned …

Browse the resources in our Helping All Readers section to learn more about why some children have difficulties learning to read.

You may also want to read the article Clues to Dyslexia in Early Childhood.


  • Enjoys being read to, and can retell simple stories or what was learned from informational texts.
  • May recall details about the characters, setting, and key action rather than a full summary of the story.
  • Can count the number of syllables in a word.
  • Can blend or break apart the individual sounds (phonemes) of most one-syllable words, like sip and bat
  • Can read words with long vowel sounds (see, say, so)
  • Begins to sound out more complex words, including words with silent “e” at the end.
  • May know as many as 100 ”sight words” — common words kids have to recognize instantly without sounding them out (havesaidwheretwo).
  • Uses letter-sound knowledge, word parts, and context to identify new words.
  • ​Monitors own reading and self-corrects.
  • May still read word-by-word but beginning to read with more fluency.
  • Is making the transition from emergent to “real” reading.
  • Knows 300 to 500 words, sight words, and easily sounded-out words.
  • Can independently read and retell familiar stories.
  • Notices when a text doesn’t make sense, and begins to use strategies such as rereading, predicting, and questioning to understand it.
  • Reads and comprehends fiction and nonfiction and knows the difference between made-up stories and facts.
  • Predicts what will happen next in stories.
  • Thinks about and shares prior knowledge before reading a nonfiction book.
  • Discusses how, why, and what-if questions in sharing nonfiction texts.
  • Can answer simple written comprehension questions.
  • Reads and understands simple written instructions.
  • Engages in a variety of literary activities voluntarily (for example, choosing books and stories to read, writing a note to a friend).


  • Writes about topics that are personally meaningful.
  • Creates own written texts for others to read.
  • Understands that writing goes from left to right and you continue to the next line to keep writing.
  • Able to write simple but complete sentences, and begin to understand when to use capital letters, commas, and periods.
  • Can print clearly and leave spaces between words.
  • Spells correctly three- and four-letter short vowel words.
  • Uses invented spelling based on letter-sound knowledge. Begins to use correct spelling, especially words from a word wall or vocabulary list.
  • Composes fairly readable first drafts using appropriate parts of the writing process (some attention to planning, drafting, rereading for meaning, and some self-correction).
  • Writes for a purpose and produces different types of writing (for example, stories, descriptions, journal entries), showing appropriate relationships between written text, illustrations, and other graphics.
  • Begins to use “story language” in her own writing, for example, adding phrases such as “once upon a time” and “happily ever after.”

Looking at writing

See examples of real writing from first graders in our interactive resource, Looking at Writing.

What does first grade writing look like?