Ready for School: First grade literacy & social studies milestones

6 ways to tell if your child is ready for first-grade literacy and social studies.

Learning Stages

By Clement Chau, Ph.D.

LeapFrog Learning Expert

As the children and media expert on the Learning Team, Clement primarily works on toys and digital products related to social studies, creativity, life skills and early childhood development. Before joining LeapFrog, he was an early education consultant, a media literacy researcher at the MIT Comparative Media Studies department, a researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston, and a researcher and lecturer at the Tufts University Developmental Technologies Research Group. Clement received his PhD from Tufts University's Eliot Pearson Department of Child Development and completed his dissertation on evaluating children's mobile apps.

First grade is a time of tremendous physical, mental, emotional and social growth. Kids turn from practicing the things they know to tackling a whole set of new skills. While kids can get frustrated, plenty of praise and reassurance helps them rise to new challenges.

To understand whether your child is ready for the challenges of first-grade literacy and social studies, assess how your child compares to the following statements in 6 key areas.


  • I know capital and lower-case letters and their sounds. 
  • I can recognize small frequently used words. I like to look through my books at home and find words that I know. I might make up a story using the word clues and picture cues I see.
  • I love when stories are read to me. 

Listening & speaking

  • My vocabulary is improving in subtle ways. My tone of voice and inflection is more natural, and I can construct passive sentences adding more variability to my speech.  Last year I was focused on using the words I knew correctly, now I am adding many more new words to my vocabulary.
  • I can listen to others for short periods of time without interrupting.
  • I understand the difference between asking and telling. I speak clearly to convey messages and requests.


  • I write my name on all of my schoolwork, and any other place that I can. 
  • I can write many familiar words. Sometimes I reverse the direction of my lower-case letters, but I get most of the upper-case letters correct.
  • I like to tell stories.

Past & present

  • I understand the concept of history as real stories of other times, events, places and people.
  • I understand broad categories of time (past, present and future).


  • I appreciate differences and similarities among people. I have a basic awareness of other cultures and cultural traditions.