Usborne Very First Reading has been developed to offer the best possible support for teaching children to read, both in schools and at home. The series is based on the principles of synthetic phonics but also provides effective support for non-phonics-based programs.

Very First Reading supports your teaching

Very First Reading offers:

  • Fifteen wonderfully imaginative, appealing and beautifully illustrated stories, providing crucial motivation for beginning readers. Children are genuinely inspired to read these books.
  • Shared reading with an adult, providing support and encouragement in the classroom, and giving the parent or caregiver a clearly-defined and valued role in reading at home.
  • Systematic learning of phonemes through the first eight books, with the next seven focusing on spelling and pronunciation patterns.
  • Carefully leveled, manageable progression from one book to the next.
  • Increasing stamina and independence of the reader: adult and child share reading in the first seven books, with the child’s share becoming progressively bigger until he or she is reading the whole text, and with the text gradually increasing in complexity and overall length.
  • Systematic introduction of sight words at the stage where children can most easily decode them.
  • Imaginative puzzles at the end of each story, and in the Resources area of this website, providing fun ways of testing comprehension and practicing word- and sentence-level reading skills.

From Book 13 - The monster diner

The books would teach and reinforce lots of skills. Teachers' Choice Award comment

The Very First Reading framework

The Very First Reading was developed with the help of literacy experts Alison Kelly and Anne Washtell at Roehampton University in London, and is based on substantial phonics research and a UK Government-backed program, Letters and Sounds .

Letters and Sounds consists of six phases and is designed to be used from pre-kindergarten through second grade. The six phases become progressively more difficult as they target pre-reading and other reading skills.

From Book 4 - Dog diary

The framework ensures:

  • Phase One mainly consists of listening-based pre-reading activities.
  • Phases Two and Three teach the forty-four phonemes in a defined sequence, in phonically regular CVC words (consonant-vowel-consonant) which are easy for children to decode. This corresponds with Very First Reading Books 1-3 (Phase Two) and Books 4-7 (Phase Three).
  • Phase Four introduces consonant clusters – groups of consonants at the beginning, middle or end of words. “Ran,” for example, is a simple CVC word. “Bran” is a CCVC word – it has a consonant cluster at the beginning, and “brand” is a CCVCC word, with a consonant cluster at the beginning and the end. This corresponds with Very First Reading Book 8.
  • Phase Five introduces alternative spellings: for instance, the / ai/ sound (as in “paid”) can also be written “ay” as in “play,” “ey” as in “they,” “a-e” as in “pale” and “a” as in “apron.” This corresponds with Very First Reading Books 9-15.
  • By Phase Six, children’s reading should be fairly well established, and the focus is more on writing, specifically spelling, which generally lags behind reading ability. Writing and spelling are closely correlated with reading.

Download our overview of the framework (PDF) which includes the material covered in each book.

A great teaching tool for beginning readers. Teachers' Choice Award comment

The Very First Reading experts

Literacy experts Alison Kelly and Anne Washtell have been involved throughout the Very First Reading development process, from designing the framework through checking the text of each of the 15 titles. US expert Kathy Daily advised on adapting content for the American market.

Alison Kelly

Alison Kelly

Alison worked for many years as an elementary school teacher in London, and is currently Principal Lecturer in English Education at Roehampton University.

She is the co-author and editor of bestselling textbooks on reading and writing in the elementary classroom. She is also the expert adviser on Usborne’s First Reading and Young Reading series, which have sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

Anne Washtell

Anne Washtell

Anne has also worked as an elementary school teacher and a teaching advisor at the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in London, and contributed to numerous textbooks and resource books for teachers.

She is currently Senior Lecturer in English Education at Roehampton University, with a special interest in teaching phonics.

Kathy Daily

Kathy Daily

Kathy is an Associate Professor of Developmental Studies and Reading at Tulsa Community College in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She has worked with a variety of populations, ranging from preschool children to adults. Throughout her teaching career, Kathy has focused on increasing literacy skills in both the school-aged population and college level population.

Kathy edits numerous college level textbooks for such companies as Pearson Publishing and McGraw-Hill. Currently, she holds a position on the Board of Trustees for the DREAM Institute, a non-profit organization working to provide college-bound students with disabilities the resources necessary to succeed in a college setting.

The Usborne Reading program

Very First Reading prepares children for the stories in Usborne First Reading (Level One), which is part of the bestselling Usborne Reading Program.

From Book 14 - Knight fight

There are seven levels in the Usborne Reading Program, offering a wide variety of titles and topics for developing readers - fairy tales and folk tales, original fiction and classics, natural history, history and biography.

Teach your Monster to Read

Teach your Monster to Read is a free game which provides a series of fun challenges to help children improve their accuracy in recognising phonemes and graphemes. It follows the teaching sequence of Letters and Sounds, and is also compatible with other leading phonics programmes. The game was produced and funded by the Usborne Foundation, a charity set up by Peter Usborne, founder of Usborne Publishing. It has been developed in consultation with reading experts at the University of Roehampton and created by leading UK games designers. Visit the Teach your Monster to Read website to find out more.

Teach your Monster to Read