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

Very First Reading supports your teaching

Very First Reading offers:

  • Fifteen brilliantly imaginative, appealing and beautifully illustrated stories, providing crucial motivation for beginner 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 carer a clearly-defined and valued role in reading at home.
  • A systematic introduction to synthetic phonics, providing opportunities for children to put their phonic knowledge into practice at key points in the learning sequence.
  • Imaginative puzzles at the end of each story, and in the Resources area of this website, providing fun ways of testing comprehension and practising word- and sentence-level reading skills.

From Book 13 - The monster diner

The games and questions enhanced the process, reinforcing techniques (letter sounds, story sequence, understanding of what is read). Regina Coeli Catholic Primary School, Croydon

The Very First Reading framework

The Very First Reading framework was developed with the help of literacy experts Alison Kelly and Anne Washtell at Roehampton University in London.

From Book 4 - Dog diary

The framework ensures:

  • Systematic learning of phonemes through the first eight books, with the next seven focusing on spelling and pronunciation patterns.
  • Carefully graded, 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 they are reading the whole text, and with the text gradually increasing in complexity and overall length.
  • Systematic introduction of high frequency words at the stage where children can most easily decode them.

Download our overview of the framework (PDF).

The Very First Reading experts

Literacy experts Alison Kelly and Anne Washtell have been involved throughout the Very First Reading development process, from devising the framework through checking the text of each of the 15 titles.

Alison Kelly

Alison Kelly

Alison worked for many years as a primary 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 primary 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 a primary 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.

Book bands for Very First Reading

Usborne Very First Reading has been assessed for book band levels, and the bands for the series are as follows:

Band 1 - Pink
Book 1 Pirate Pat
Book 2 The Dressing-Up Box
Book 3 A Bus for Miss Moss
Book 4 Dog Diary
Band 2 - Red
Book 5 Grizzly Bear Rock
Book 6 The Queen Makes a Scene
Book 7 Stop That Cow!
Band 3 - Yellow
Book 8 Moon Zoom
Book 9 Run, Rabbit, Run!
Band 4 - Blue
Book 10 Late Night at the Zoo
Book 11 Wild School
Book 12 The Circus Under the Sea
Book 13 The Monster Diner
Band 5 - Green
Book 14 Knight Fight
Book 15 Mr. Mystery

From Book 12 - The circus under the sea

From Book 12 - The circus under the sea

The Usborne Reading Programme

Very First Reading is designed to bring children up to the level at which they can tackle stories in Usborne First Reading (Level One), which is part of the bestselling Usborne Reading Programme.

From Book 14 - Knight fight

The Usborne Reading Programme offers a huge choice of titles and topics for developing readers - fairy tales and folk tales, original fiction and classics, natural history, history and biography, including RE and citizenship - graded into seven levels.

You can find out more about the Usborne Reading Programme, or download a full list of Usborne Reading Progamme titles by book band.

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 uses exactly the same teaching sequence as Very First Reading, 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