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First Grade Reading Skills | Fluency

Connection to Reading

Children who can read accurately, quickly and with expression will have an easier time understanding what they read because they won’t be stuck on sounding out words. Building fluency is like building a muscle, it takes practice to get stronger and faster.  Fluency also improves comprehension by adding expression and appropriate phrasing. Children will love to hear how their fluency breathes life into a story they read aloud!

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The goal for the 1st grade reader is to read the same way as how they talk, using expression and changing their voice to reflect what is happening in the story. Fluency helps students read smoothly and better understand the story.

The teacher will begin “timed reading passages,” where students will read a story and be timed for one minute to keep track of how many words they can read.

  • By December, 1st graders should read 50 words correct per minute (WCPM).
  • By May, students should be reading 70 words per minute.


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Read Aloud to Your Child Every Day

Your child needs a model of reading fluency. They begin to develop their own fluency when they can hear how you change your expression throughout a story and read with ease. Tell them how you raise your voice at the end of question sentence (“Do you like eating broccoli?”) or how you change your voice for different characters (“This character is really afraid, so I’m going to make my voice shaky when I read his words.”) Have them match your expressions and speed following your demonstration.

Read Books on the Right Level

We must prevent children from becoming frustrated as they try to read. This means finding a book they are able to read comfortably and that offers only a slight challenge, meaning they can comfortably read most of the words they see. Early reading books with pictures and large font help boost children’s confidence and excitement when students realize they can actually read the book.

Give Feedback: No Robot Reading

When children get in the swing of reading, they still are reading word-by-word. They are decoding more quickly but don’t yet know  how to craft their voice into a story that is pleasing to hear. Tell your child that you are going to work hard to break the habit of “Robot Reading”. Demonstrate how a robot would read a sentence from their favorite book. Have them read the sentence and ask them how they can make it sound better. The most helpful thing you can do for your child is to pinpoint where they need help and help them fix it. (“I noticed that when there is a period at the end of the sentence you forget to stop before starting the next sentence. Let’s try that together so we can hear how a sentence should end.”)

Repeat a Sentence Until It Sounds JUST Right

Research has shown that as soon as children show the ability to decode (sound out) words, they must practice re-reading sentences to get their expression to “sound like talking” and make a sentence come to life.

Pick a sentence from a book that is on your child’s reading level and have them read it out loud. If they skip a word or mispronounce have them read the sentence again. Read it again for a third time. This activity, in less than five minutes, shows your child that they have the power and control over how the story sounds!

Chorus Read

A chorus read is when you and your child read at the same time, like how singers sing in a chorus. Pick a paragraph in a story and let your child practice reading fluently with you.

Echo Reading

While reading a book to your child, have them repeat a sentence from the story after you have read it. Let them practice making their voice sound natural and changing the tone as the sentence ends. If a character in the story speaks, model how they talk, then have your child repeat after you.

Practice a Poem Over and Over

Have your child re-read their favorite poem each night. Doing repeated readings of your child’s favorite poems will help them control their voice, tempo and expression. Even after 40 years, Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends still delights and captivates most 1st graders!

Performance Reading

Do your own at home “reader’s theatre”. Using any picture book, have your child read it as though it was a performance, acting out each page from the story. Let them pretend to use a microphone like they’re on stage or as if they were an actor in a movie.

Read Along Books

Captivate your child’s attention by listening to an author read a story with rich expression. Have your child tell you why they enjoy listening to a “storyteller” (someone who uses expression and reads like they talk)  instead of a “robot” (reading word by word slowly).

Listen to Read Aloud Books by Scholastic (Free)

NC Kids Digital Library (Free, requires library card number)

Go to “Collections” select “Read Alongs” to choose from hundreds of picture books that will read aloud as your child follows along in the story.

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Children's Reading Resource | Pre-K - 3rd Grade | Home Reading Helper


Timed Fluency Passages

These are sample end-of-first grade reading passages that are used for timed reading to show parents how their child is tested. A teacher would select a passage based on your child’s reading level and have the student do a “cold read,” meaning the student has never read or practiced the passage before. Once the student begins, they are timed for one minute and the teacher follows along on a copy of the same passage. The teacher notes the places where your child skipped words or misread. After the minute stops, the child stops reading and the teacher counts the number of words read correctly. Students are typically tested three times throughout the year.

Children's Reading Resource | Pre-K - 3rd Grade | Home Reading Helper


Use phonics games to help build kids’  “decoding” or sounding out skills. This will make your child a stronger, faster and more fluent reader.

Starfall Phonics Activities 1st Grade Word Games

PBS Kids Princess Pesto’s Spelling Game

Listen to Read Aloud Books by Scholastic (Free)

Captivate your child with these 15 nonfiction read-along books. “Listen and Read” activities tell their stories through words, images, and sound.

Voice Memo App (Free on most phones)

Using the Voice Memo app available on most phones, let your child record themselves reading. They could pretend to be reporters!  Listen to the recording and give them corrective feedback and guidance about how they can drop their voice at the end of a sentence or raise their voice at the end of a question. Have them practice phrasing or emphasizing a single word to give the sentence a powerful effect. (“Did you know that TORNADOES could tear the roof off of your house?)


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