Teachers require enough books to suit every child’s reading level and to develop their independent reading skills. There should be sufficient books for children to be able to take books home to read every day.

Books for independent reading should:

  • Be in plentiful supply on, above and below the child’s reading level to develop reading stamina and elevate reading to a higher level
  • Be at the point of interest for the child
  • Reflect all the genres, both fiction (fairy tales, adventure, fantasy, folktales etc.) and non-fiction (biographies, recounts, information reports etc.)


Teachers need an interesting graded reading scheme that can be systematically worked through to teach the necessary skills.

A systematic reading scheme should:

  • Provide a varied selection of books for children to read and handle
  • Be specifically designed to teach various skills in context
  • Introduce a variety of teaching methodologies to cater for different learning styles
  • Provide support for the teacher in implementing the methodologies
  • Progress systematically through the levels to encourage confidence in reading
  • Provide books with different illustration styles
  • Provide books written by recognised children’s authors in a variety of styles
  • Provide a wide range of genres.

The overall book stock should represent a balance of literature which includes both fiction and non-fiction. Carefully selected fiction should include all forms of narratives (everyday life stories, folktales, fairy tales, adventure stories, fantasy, myths, legends etc.). Non-fiction books should include recounts of real life experiences (biographies, factual information texts on a rich variety of subjects, procedures on how to make things etc.). The books should appeal to children, evoke different feelings and spark the imagination while covering different themes and genres to develop reading fluency. The interests and experiences of children today should be well represented.


What is guided reading?

Children sit in small groups (usually six children to a group) and read the same text (usually a story or an interesting non-fiction book such as a biography) with the teacher. The children all have a copy of the same book. For guided reading the group consists of children of more or less the same reading ability. The teacher works with the group, giving each child a chance to read aloud and to answer questions. Various reading skills and strategies are targeted such as phonics, sight word recognition, comprehension, knowledge of sentence structure and punctuation. Once the routines of group reading are established, the teacher then has the opportunity to implement guided reading with selected groups of children.


What are the benefits of guided reading?

The teacher:

  • Has the opportunity to hear how each child is progressing with his or her reading
  • Can assess each child’s reading and measure progress
  • Decides what skills to focus on and teaches them to the group
  • Develops children’s reading skills
  • Addresses problems in reading
  • Gives children individual attention.

Why is guided reading suitable for English first additional language learners?

Guided reading:

  • Helps develop confidence and fluency in reading
  • Enables children to work on specific reading problems
  • Helps teachers assess reading levels and provide suitable books for children to read
  • Provides a well-organised environment for children to practise reading aloud
  • Provides opportunities for meaningful interactions in English between the children and the teacher as they discuss the books
  • Develops reading for meaning.

What books are suitable for guided reading?

Teachers need sets of books that children can use for group and guided reading. Each set consists of multiple (preferably six) copies of each title.

Books for guided reading should:

  • Be on the reading level of the group so that they do not struggle with decoding and lose the meaning of what they are reading
  • Be examples of interesting fiction and non-fiction that reflect the children’s world and propels them beyond their immediate experiences
  • Be interesting and informative enough to be page turners
  • Not be too long for the group to work their way through in group and guided reading sessions
  • Lead to interesting discussions about values, events, ideas, feelings and experiences
  • Help children explore important themes in the stories
  • Challenge children’s thinking

Preparing for guided reading

First ensure that your learners are able to do group reading on their own so you are able to focus on a guided reading group while the rest of the class is occupied. Before the guided reading session you should read the book you are going to use.

This will enable you to:

  • Choose a book that is on the correct level for your group of readers. The children

should be able to read the book but it should offer a few new challenges to develop their reading skills

  • Ensure that the children have enough general knowledge to understand the setting of the book
  • Talk about the setting of the story, ask comprehension questions about the content, explain difficult words and discuss the purpose of the story
  • Have in your own mind the reading skills that you want to focus on.

How do you give a guided reading lesson?

  • Select a group of six children with approximately the same reading level.
  • Have each child read a page or two to you.
  • Encourage the children to talk about the story.
  • Write down any words the children find difficult and explain their meaning.
  • Help children sound out unfamiliar words.
  • Help children use the context of the story or sentence to guess the meaning of new words.
  • If the children don’t recognise enough sight words to read fluently, then focus on teaching these to them.
  • Ask the children questions about what has been read and establish that the children are indeed reading for meaning.
  • Keep an informal record of reading progress for each child. Note what he/she needs to focus on to improve their level of reading.


What is group reading?

Group reading is a way of teaching children in  small groups (usually six children to a group) and the members of the group read the same text (usually a story or an interesting non-fiction book such as a biography). Each member of the group has a copy of the same book. The group consists of children of varying reading ability. The group reads the book aloud, each group member taking a turn to read a section. When the group has completed the reading, they discuss the book and complete some activities based on the book. The whole class is involved in group reading at the same time, but each group reads different material. Each group has its own group leader who directs the reading activities.

What are the benefits of group reading?

Group work encourages children not only to listen to the teacher but also to listen and learn from each other. This promotes a respect for others and a basic understanding of democracy, as they learn to express opinions and listen to opinions with which they may not agree.

Why is group reading suitable for English first additional language learners?

Group reading:

  • Replaces the boring method of reading around the class
  • Provides a well organised situation for children to practise reading aloud
  • Provides opportunities for meaningful interactions in English between children as they discuss the books in their groups
  • Increases children’s confidence and fluency in reading
  • Allows participation at all reading levels
  • Develops reading for meaning.

What books are suitable for group reading?

Teachers require sets of books that children can use for group and guided reading.

Each set consists of six copies of each title together with group reading workcards.

Books for group reading should

  • Be on the reading level of the group so that they do not struggle with decoding and lose the meaning of what they are reading
  • Be examples of interesting fiction and non-fiction that reflects the children’s world and propels them beyond their immediate experiences
  • Be interesting and informative enough to be page turners
  • Not be too long for the group to work their way through in group reading sessions
  • Lead to interesting discussions about values, events, ideas, feelings and experiences
  • Help children explore important themes in the stories
  • Challenge children’s thinking

How do you give a group reading lesson?

  • Appoint and train group leaders to help you set up group reading in your class
  • Organise the sets of group reading books and group reading cards with the help of group leaders
  • Divide the class into groups of six
  • Group leaders distribute the books and workcards to their groups
  • The group leader supervises the reading and ensures that each member of his/her group has a turn to read a page of the group reading book.
  • Children use the group reading workcards to answer questions about the books.


Using stories for language development

What is reading aloud?

In essence, reading aloud is simply reading stories to children. You, the teacher, select and read stories that you know will appeal to the children. Reading aloud works when you read regularly throughout the year to your class. Reading aloud is one of the best ways to build children’s general knowledge, vocabulary and language competence and to take them beyond their immediate experiences. It also motivates children to want to learn to read because it demonstrates the pleasure and purpose of reading. Research shows that the children most able to take to literacy education are those who have been read to in their early years.

How does reading aloud help to develop literacy?

If you want children to love reading enough to enjoy doing so in their leisure time, the best thing you can do is to read to them as often as possible. People who love reading are never bored; you can thus give children a gift that they will value throughout their lives. Reading for pleasure will also ensure that children benefit by becoming life-long learners, do better in all their school subjects and have a positive attitude to life.

There is evidence that reading stories to children:

  • Helps them become better readers
  • Develops their language skills
  • Increases vocabulary
  • Develops world knowledge
  • Introduces the style of written language to them
  • Develops comprehension skills like prediction
  • Is an effective way of introducing different genres (different types of stories like everyday life stories, folktales, fantasy etc.)

What books are suitable for reading aloud?

The level of the books

The books you choose for reading aloud should be above the actual reading level of the children. This allows children to engage with ideas and topics that they would not be able to access themselves through independent reading. This interests and intrigues them and encourages them to want to read more to find out such things for themselves. You can engage children in meaningful discussions of characters, plots, themes, setting and moods. This kind of reflection helps children understand the deeper meaning underlying many events in stories. You should also encourage children to wonder about new concepts, express their own ideas about what they observe in the pictures, and bring their own life experiences to the texts by explicitly asking them what the events remind them of. All of this can be achieved as the level and quality of the books provide a rich emotional and literary experience.

The genres or different types of books

Choose examples of many different genres, both fiction and non-fiction. For fiction you can use stories that reflect the everyday life of the children to start with and then move into fantasy, folktales, fairy tales, adventure, and humour. For non-fiction start with texts that are easy to follow, such as biographies, interesting texts about animals, cars and recounts of exciting events.

 The quality of the books

The books should be the best examples of children’s literature that you can get.

They should:

  • Offer a rich language experience
  • Be relevant to the children
  • Reflect the world of the children or help them move beyond it
  • Inspire imagination and curiosity through the excitement of the story.

 The illustrations

Illustration plays a key role in reading aloud to children. Beautiful illustrations by famous artists of children’s books offer a wealth of different artistic styles. Showing pictures that support the text helps immensely in the enjoyment of stories. The artwork inspires imagination and introduces children to the world of fantasy, the past and other wonders of the world they might not ever encounter in other ways.

How do you give a reading aloud lesson?

Before reading

Activate prior knowledge by asking questions

  • About the cover and title of the book
  • About the setting and characters
  • To help children predict what the book will be about
  • To help children make links between what they already know and the new information they will hear in the story.

Explain difficult vocabulary words in the story. There may be some words that are essential for understanding  the story. If there is a song or rhyme in the story, write it on the board to encourage the children to join in.

During reading

  • Show children the pictures as you read the story but do not slow down the flow of the story. Ask them what they notice in one or two of the pictures.
  • Ask a few questions to ensure that children are following the logic of the story.
  • Stop a few times to ask children what something in the story makes them wonder about.
  • Read with expression and animation to hold the attention of the children (use different voices for different characters).
  • Allow children to join in if there is a refrain in the story.

 After reading

Ask questions that check that the children have understood the story. Talk about:

  • The main idea or message
  • How the story ended
  • Who the main characters were and why the children like or dislike them
  • Why things happened
  • The sequence of events
  • The issues in the story

Ask questions to help the children respond emotionally to the story:

  • What did the story make you wonder about?
  • What did you notice especially in the story/or the pictures?
  • What did the characters or events in the story remind you of?

Use the context of the story to design relevant writing and drama activities.


What is reading?

Reading used to be seen only as the ability to recognise and say each separate word in a text using our knowledge of letters and sounds (a process known as decoding . We now know that reading is much more than simply decoding each word. Now we think of reading as being able to get meaning from the text, even if we cannot read every single word. It is even possible for some children to be able to decode a text but not to understand what they are reading at all. Marie Clay, a world recognised specialist on reading, says that ‘reading is a meaning-making, problem-solving activity’ . From this we can see that children must both decode and make meaning from what they read.

How do we teach children to read for meaning?

  1. Children need to be taught to decode text even though this is not the only skill they need. They need to know the letters of the alphabet, the sounds that each letter makes and what sounds groups of letters make. They need to know how to sound out a new word by breaking words into their different sounds and hearing how the sounds flow together to make a word.
  2. Children need some general knowledge to make meaning from what they read. The more they already know about the topic they are reading about, the easier it will be to add to that knowledge and get meaning from it. For example, reading about a camel is meaningless if children do not know what a camel is.
  1. Children need to know the language in which they are reading. Knowledge of language helps us understand what we read and it helps us with words we do not know. When we know the language, we can predict what kinds of words will come next in a meaningful sentence.
  2. Children need to know sufficient sight words or high-frequency words (words we use a lot like the, and, they, I etc.) and key vocabulary words (essential words that are related to the texts they are reading to read quickly enough to understand the meaning of sentences. If they read too slowly they will forget what they read at the beginning of the sentence by the time they get to the end, and lose the meaning.

From this we can see that in order to read meaningfully, children need to combine their knowledge about decoding, their knowledge of the language in which they are reading, their general knowledge of the world around them and their recognition of sight words and vocabulary words. When children amalgamate, organise and control these types of knowledge they are able to respond to what they read with both pleasure and curiosity because it is ultimately meaningful to them.

‘Learning how to read is primarily a matter of learning how to organise and integrate knowledge effectively .. . it is control of the orchestration process rather than just the possession of knowledge that determine the degree of reading skill.’  (Edward A. Chittenden).

What do children need to learn to be able to read at their grade level?

They need:

  • To learn to read in a language that is familiar to them and then, when they are ready, they can learn in an additional language
  • To read and write habitually in the new language to develop reading and writing skills
  • Sufficient general knowledge to understand what they are reading by having lots of stories read to them
  • To immediately recognise sufficient sight words and vocabulary words to read at the right pace to make sentences meaningful
  • Sufficient phonic or word recognition skills to decode or sound out unfamiliar words
  • The opportunity to develop their reading stamina by having sufficient books at their reading level to read independently
  • To be taught reading skills systematically through an adequate provision of booksTo read books that are relevant to them and at their point of interest.

 Why is reading so important in the Foundation Phase?

It is well known that children who do not learn to read and write in the first three years at school find it very difficult for them to ever catch up. Since reading comprehension underpins all learning in all subjects, children need to master reading from the beginning of their schooling to prevent being disadvantaged at school and beyond.

What skills do children have to master in order to be able to read?

Reading is a complex process that involves many skills. These need to be developed over time as children progress through both primary and high school to ultimately attain an advanced reading level that will enable them to cope with tertiary education and the ever-increasing demands of the modern world.

Here are some examples of the types of skills that children need to master to get to a fluent reading level in order to cope with the demands of the Intermediate Phase:

Emergent level reading skills:

  • Understand the oral language of stories that are read to them
  • Know how to match the spoken word with the written word
  • Use some concepts of print (print tells a story, words are read from left to right, books are held a certain way up; later concepts include capital letters, punctuation, use of bold type etc.)
  • Identify alphabet letters
  • Phonic knowledge of letter/sound
  • Know sufficient high-frequency and vocabulary words for adequate reading speed
  • Know how to self-correct their own reading.

Early level reading skills:

  • Know blends of letters (such as bl, sp, pl etc.) to help decode many more words
  • Know clusters of letters (such as ch, kn and wh that make specific sounds)
  • Can make meaning from what they read using language structures (I like … ; I can … ; This is … ;yesterday she … etc.).

Fluent level reading skills:

  • Can use both large and small chunks of meaning and language structure and visual information in an integrated way to read longer and more complex texts
  • Can read with ease, confidence and understanding by connecting word recognition, fluency and understanding.

How do we teach these skills?

Children are unique and they all have different learning styles and individual needs. We need to be aware of this when we consider the different methodologies we use to teach reading. There is no one fixed method that will successfully teach all children to read. Therefore the best way to teach reading is through a variety of teaching methods using stories and books. These teaching methods, supported by relevant book provision, underpin the NCS and outcomes-based education that give priority to understanding and the ability to apply knowledge.

The methods are:

  • Reading aloud
  • Shared reading and writing
  • Group reading
  • Guided reading
  • Independent reading and writing
  • Skills development in context


The skill of reading is an enabling skill, allowing access to a world of experience far beyond the perceived realities of one’s immediate surroundings. Moreover the method of gaining access to this world is a uniquely reflective process as compared with the access afforded by radio, movies, or television.’