Help your child with reading from an early age with Usborne Very First Reading. The advice below, combined with our Very First Reading series, will help give your child a great start.
The fifteen books in the Very First Reading series are designed to be read in order and support the early years of learning to read. Even if you think your child is too advanced for the first few books, it can be very helpful to read them for practice and to build confidence.
From Book 7 - Stop that cow!
You can find more detail about the structure of the series below, but broadly speaking:
When these two stages are introduced will depend on your child and on your child’s teacher and school, but the books will ensure plenty of reading and writing practice to develop retention and confidence.
It is helpful if your child is familiar with the new letters or letter-combinations in each book before starting to read (find these on page 30 of each book). See Learning letters for some suggestions.
The puzzles after each story are intended to do several things: test comprehension, give further reading practice and provide a fun activity for your child. Generally, the first puzzle checks whether your child has understood the story, for example by asking the child to retell it or match speech bubbles or captions to pictures. The second and third puzzles tend to be more word-based. You will need to read the instructions to your child, and then discuss or check the answers.
It's an excellent idea to read the story several times; your child will gain in fluency and confidence each time. You can
also find more puzzles and practice activities for each book
Resources area. Then, when you feel your child is ready,
you can go on to the next book in the series. Don’t rush,
though – remember that the fifteen books in the series cover
a great deal of material, and practice and confidence are
essential at each step. Above all,
motivation is vital to successful reading – do what you can to make sure reading is fun, and something your child is really interested in doing.
For more information, see the Help your child with reading section below.
We love these books! It has helped my son develop confidence in his reading. Teachers' Choice Award comment
From Book 5 - Grizzly bear rock
From Book 9 - Run, rabbit, run!
Usborne Very First Reading is based on a solid structural framework, ensuring that children develop their reading vocabulary and stamina at a steady, manageable pace.
From Book 4 - Dog diary
Each of the first seven books introduces a small group of phonemes (the sounds made by letters, or combinations of letters). Later books introduce new spelling and pronunciation patterns to help children build up a secure and rational understanding of written English.
The Very First Reading series is backed by decades of phonics research, and supports reading programs currently used by schools around the world. One such program - Letters and Sounds – has been implemented in schools across the UK, and shows promising results. Many other reading programs used in schools around the world are now being developed or redeveloped to support this program. Very First Reading implements this research to make available exciting and engaging stories that are reading-level appropriate and provide an interactive reading experience with an adult.
Very First Reading makes use of scientifically based research to support the teaching of reading, as required by the Reading First initiative, implemented by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Very First Reading actively develops the five skills, outlined by Reading First, that all children need to master in order to become fluent readers: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and text comprehension. The methods of teaching of reading are, as they should be, the subject of intensive debate and ongoing research. Government policies can and do change to reflect the latest research and best practice. It is now widely accepted that phonics can play a significant role in learning to read. Reading materials are also constantly evolving, and many who considered phonics methods in the past to be restrictive and boring are won over by the high quality, as well as the proven effectiveness, of new series such as Very First Reading.
Download the full structure of Very First Reading (PDF) for details of the material covered in each story.
Here are meanings of some other technical terms in the structure table that you may not know.
From Book 3 - A bus for Miss Moss
These books are well made, excellent developmental reading books and they are written to be timeless in interest to children. Teachers' Choice Award comment
From Book 2 - The dressing-up box
Phonics has been very much in the news over the past few years. Many schools now incorporate some phonics teaching in the early stages of reading. Very First Reading is based on the approach known as "synthetic phonics."
From Book 14 - Knight fight
Synthetic phonics involves learning to recognize the distinct sounds, or phonemes, that go together to make up words. There are 44 phonemes in the English language. Some phonemes correspond to a single letter, like the c-a-t sounds ("cuh-ah-tuh") in the word "cat", and others to combinations of letters, such as the sh-ar sounds in the word "shark".
Children start by learning just a few phonemes, then learn to combine these in order to read whole words ("synthesizing" the phonemes, or running them together, hence "synthetic phonics"). This gives them the confidence to tackle new and unfamiliar words, an important step towards independent reading. They are soon introduced to more phonemes, then learn different ways of spelling the phonemes they know. Usborne Very First Reading introduces all the phonemes in a tried and tested order of progression, from simple letter-sounds to complex and variable spelling and pronunciation.
Unfortunately not. Words in English can be divided into two basic groups: regular phonic words, such as "cat", and words that are wholly or partly irregular.
Around 85% of English words are regular, but some very common words, such as "I" and "the", are irregular. These are sometimes known as "sight words" or "tricky words" that children have to learn when starting to read. Each book in Very First Reading introduces one or two of these "sight words", along with other, phonically regular, high frequency words, at the stage where children can most easily decode them.
Not necessarily. Many schools still use the look and say or whole word method, where children are encouraged to learn to recognize whole words, and use "cues" or clues from the picture or context if they can't guess the word. For some children, this method is fine, especially if they have the encouragement of enthusiastic parents or teachers. For others, especially children with learning difficulties, the whole word method is laborious and deeply confusing.
Synthetic phonics has long had its supporters among teachers specializing in special educational needs, but there is increasing evidence that it works well in the mainstream. A seven-year study in Scotland found that children who learned to read using synthetic phonics were two to three years ahead of their peers in word reading, and eighteen months ahead in spelling. This was true for children across different social backgrounds and, very unusually, boys tended to outperform girls. The study had a considerable influence on the development of reading programs in the UK which strongly recommended that children be taught “first and fast” using synthetic phonics.
According to the US National Institute for Literacy, phonics-based programs are best introduced when children are first learning to read, and offer the following benefits over whole word methods:
Very First Reading has been developed specifically to support phonics teaching, but it will also provide valuable support and practice for other methods.
From Book 1 - Pirate Pat
From Book 15 - Mr. Mystery
Reading is a vital skill – it’s not just something your child learns at school, it's essential to everything he or she does at school. Anything you can do to help children feel positive and confident about reading will enhance their prospects for success at school, and well on into their adult lives.
From Book 4 - Dog diary
One of the best features of the series is the shared reading concept. Hollytree pre-school, North Baddesley
From Book 11 - Wild school
Children who are familiar with the letters of the alphabet have a great advantage when they start school. Learning letters can be fun, and will give your child so much satisfaction. Don't try too much at once: learning one new letter a day will help your child’s retention.
Teach Your Monster to Read is a free game to help children learn letters and sounds. Find out more.
Lots of help is offered to parents, at the end of each book, in the parent guide and online too. Teachers' Choice Award comment
From Book 5 - Grizzly bear rock
Every child is different, and you should take your cue from your own child.
Usborne Very First Reading closely supports the synthetic phonics methods used by many schools, and provides valuable reading practice even if your child is using a different method.
Many children find reading difficult in the early stages, for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with intelligence or learning disabilities. Bright children can often seem to 'plateau' once they have mastered the basics. Very First Reading provides a structured and methodical approach that teaches or reinforces basic phonic knowledge, enabling children to decode even unfamiliar words highly effectively.
You may find that it's reassuring to start at a level or two below your child's ability and progress quickly, and children will enjoy all the stories even if they find the text easy. If your child is familiar with all the letters of the alphabet, you could start with Book Four, and if he knows all the phonemes, try Book Seven.
If you suspect your child may have a learning disability, talk to her teacher or your doctor, who may suggest eyesight or hearing tests as a first step. In fact, many children with learning disabilities find phonics methods particularly helpful, so the Very First Reading approach may be what works best for your child.
The flexibility and simplicity of the series is helpful in supporting a wide variety of learning styles. With Very First Reading, new reading patterns are introduced in a very controlled and logical order, gradually building understanding of how the written language works. The shared reading principle is also particularly supportive and flexible, allowing children to go at their own pace.
Very First Reading gives your child a solid foundation to start
reading more widely – still with your support in the early stages,
but with an increasing degree of independence and choice. There is
a huge range of titles for developing readers in the seven-level
Usborne Reading Program
- fairy tales and folk tales, original fiction and non-fiction, children's
classics and history, biography and literary classics for older readers,
with the same principles of engaging writing, world class illustration
and high quality production.
Find out more about the Usborne Reading Program.
From Book 7 - Stop that cow!