Usborne Reading Programme

Mollie can read! She can select a book and read words by sight, mostly fluently. When she gets stuck she has the strategies to break words up, sound them out, read ahead and use the pictures as clues. Last week she fell asleep with a book that she had been reading to herself! (So proud!)

Mollie was 4 in July and started school in September. She already knew a lot of her sounds when she started school, and could blend them together to read simple CVC words like ‘mum’ and ‘cat’. But she was stuck there. In her first couple of months at school she brought home reading scheme books and point blank refused to read them, or she read them with such disinterest and lack of engagement that the whole process was completely worthless. She is so used to books with rich language, entertaining and thoughtful stories and high quality illustration. The reading scheme books just didn’t cut it. They bored her and felt like work rather than fun. Until she found Pirate Pat, the first book in the Usborne Very First Reading series, which is the stepping stone towards the full Usborne Reading Programme.

It was the format that first caught her attention – a small hardback with a ribbon bookmark and full colour quality illustrations. This was the book that changed everything. It had a proper story! Split into sections, the adult and child share the reading – the adult reads the story and the child reads simple words that add to it, using just the initial sounds they have learnt. Genius! Mollie was hooked! Finally a reading scheme book that didn’t try to stretch a story out of the seven words children can read at this stage.

I can’t tell you what a difference this made to Mollie’s learning. She flew! She inhaled these books, loving the interaction and the shared reading process. The early books have puzzles at the end to reward the reading and support comprehension – a great touch. As the series progresses the children are gently introduced to more sounds. The adult part reduces and the child’s increases until the children are reading by themselves. It’s a subtle process and one that works wonders.

Since October Mollie has worked her way through the Very First Reading books and well in to the full Usborne Reading Programme. She also dips in to the Collins Big Cat books which are often written and illustrated by authors and illustrators she knows from her picture books- she particularly loves their non-fiction titles. Gone are the days of bribing her to do her school reading. Now she is reading way above the expected level for her age and she chooses these books at the local library – they are fun and engaging with great stories- not a chore!


Luckily for us, the Usborne Reading Programme has seven levels (eight including the Very First Reading books that come before it) so it will take Mollie right through to chapter books that she can read independently. There’s a lovely mix of fiction, non fiction and retold classics in the series, and a wealth of resources online to back the programme up. You can even download a chart to compare the Usborne books with the book banding and National Curriculum levels that are used in schools. A good selection of titles are available as e-books too, so Mollie has been able to easily catch up on some of the books that we haven’t been able to find at school or the local library.

Thank you, Usborne, for producing a series of books that really work, that see story and content as important as skill level, and are genuinely engaging for children (and adults- I’m having a great time too!)
Thank you for teaching my daughter to read.

Source – Pirate Pat from school library. I bought a boxed set of 50 books across the reading programme from The Bookpeople. The rest have been borrowed from the school library and our local library.

4 thoughts on “Usborne Reading Programme

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  1. Thanks for a great post on these books! My daughter is the same age as yours & although she couldn’t read at all before school she began brilliantly with the reading scheme books from school until a week or so ago. She went up a level & then refused to read the books. I agree they can be so dull & forced – nothing like what we read together at home. But a friend has leant us some of these Usborne books & having read your post I’m full of hope for renewed reading enthusiasm! Congratulations to Mollie 😉

    1. Thank you. And best of luck for your daughter. Also, do have a dig through your school/local library and keep eyes open for Collins Big Cats books. They have a purple lion logo and really varied titles, often by established picture book authors and illustrators. They are much better than your average reading scene too. Good luck! Hope they work for her too 🙂

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