The Usborne Very First Reading Program

Give the Gift of Reading

Give the Gift of Reading

The resources below will give children invaluable extra reading and writing practice. With practice, they will be able to identify letters and words faster and more accurately in order to understand and enjoy stories as a whole. Resources include:

Resources for each book

Click on the book covers to listen to the phonemes and download the activity sheets and wordbanks for each title.


Terms of use

Usborne downloadable activities are the copyright of Usborne Publishing Ltd and may not be reproduced in print or in electronic form for any commercial or profit-related purpose.

Using the downloadable activity sheets

The activity sheets for each title provide not only further reading practice but also an excellent opportunity for writing practice. You can download and print the sheets for your child to fill in.

Help your child by reading the instructions at the top of the page. For some of the activities, you are asked to cut out phrases at the bottom of the page, so you will need scissors and a pencil.

Don’t worry too much about neat writing at this stage, but do encourage your child to hold the pencil properly and check that they are forming the letters correctly. Getting these basics right will help your child to write clearly and fluently. Some children find it helpful to use a special triangular pencil gripper made of plastic or rubber. Look out for these in art and craft or stationery shops, or your child’s school may be able to supply one.

You can see the recommended pencil grip and letter forms by downloading our Very First Reading Letter Chart, in PDF format.

Click on the book covers above to download the activity sheets for each title.

Using the wordbanks

Each title also has a wordbank – a list of words for practice reading. Some feature in the story, others are new and will help your child to develop sounding and blending skills. The list includes high frequency words and “tricky” or irregular words.

You can print out the lists and stick them onto card (or print them directly on card), then cut out the words to make mini flashcards. High frequency words (including “tricky” words) have an extra box outline so that you can identify them and keep them separately.

  • You might like to put the words in a special box as your child learns them – you could choose an old cardboard box and decorate it together.
  • Choose a word card. Help your child to sound and blend the word until they can read it confidently. Check that your child knows what the word means. Once your child is sure of both reading and meaning, you can put the card into the decorated box, and watch the word collection grow.
  • Take the words out of the box from time to time to practise reading them - and to remind yourselves how much progress your child has made.
  • Your child could try choosing words from the box and putting them together in sentences. Or look for words that start with the same letter or phoneme, or words that rhyme – these are all valuable activities for developing your child’s awareness of words and how they work.
  • Once you have learned a few high frequency words, you might like to make them a little box of their own. Your child will need to learn these words in their first year at school (Reception year in England and Wales).
  • Or you could cut out the list of high frequency words in each book and put them up somewhere around the house where your child can see them easily, with sticky tack or magnets. You can practise them any time you have a few moments to spare.

Click on the book covers above to download the wordbanks for each title.

Pronouncing the phonemes

Phonemes are sounds made by letters or combinations of letters. There are 44 phonemes in the English language - most of them are introduced in the first seven books of Very First Reading, with the remaining two being introduced in Book 8 and Book 15.

  • /a/ as in "apple"
  • /b/ as in "ball"
  • (c is the same sound as /k/ below)
  • /d/ as in "doll"
  • /e/ as in "bed"
  • /f/ as in "fox", "phone" or "tough"
  • /g/ as in "gas"
  • /h/ as in "hat"
  • /i/ as in "it"
  • /j/ as in "jam" or "giraffe"
  • /k/ as in "king", "cap" or "luck"
  • /l/ as in "log"
  • /m/ as in "mop"
  • /n/ as in "nut"
  • /o/ as in "dog"
  • /p/ as in "pet"
  • /kw/ (q) as in "quick"
  • /r/ as in "run"
  • /s/ as in "sit"
  • /t/ as in "tip"
  • /u/ as in "plug" or "money"
  • /v/ as in "vet"
  • /w/ as in "web" or "whale"
  • /ks/ (x) as in "box"
  • /y/ as in "yellow"
  • /z/ as in "zoo" or "his"
  • /ch/ as in "chat" or "fetch"
  • /sh/ as in "ship" or "mission"
  • /th/ (unvoiced) as in "thick"
  • /th/ (voiced) as in "that"
  • /ng/ as in "sing" or "think"
  • /zh/ as in "treasure"
  • /ai/ as in "train", "cake" or "say"
  • /air/ as in "stair" or "hare"
  • /ar/ as in "arm"
  • /ee/ as in "street", "heat" or "happy"
  • /ear/ as in "fear" or "beer"
  • /er/ as in "sister"
  • /igh/ as in "right", "pie", "bike" or "by"
  • /oa/ as in "soap", "toe", "bone" or "tow"
  • /oi/ as in "oil" or "toy"
  • /oo/ as in "moon", "blew", "clue" or "group"
  • /oo/ as in "book" or "put"
  • /or/ as in "fork", "core" or "door"
  • /ow/ as in "how" or "hound"
  • /ur/ as in "curl", "her" or "bird"
  • /ure/ as in "sure", "poor" or "detour"

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