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  • Writer's pictureJenni Mills

Levelled Books

If you have had anything to do with children learning to read, you will mostly likely have come across them. They are often in colourful sets and the early ones are more picture than text.

I'm referring to Levelled Readers.

The sets change depending on what current theories are in favour about how children learn to read. But one thing stays consistent. Levelled books start with very basic words and grammar and build as the reader grows their knowledge base.

When I first started teaching, I felt like these levelled readers were little, mysterious bibles, conforming to some kind of all encompassing doctrine on how a learner should progress through their reading journey.

It took many years to come to the realisation that the books were simply a tool which could be used in many ways, depending on the preferences of the teacher, learner, school and even the state.

Past systems for levelling have included, repetition, rhyme, building sight word banks and building on complexity of grammar. Each system generally has it's own filters for what concepts and words belong in each level.

Decodable books are no different. Generally, each level will focus on one type of 'key' (such as CVC words, or words with a silent e, or a set of letter combinations, like ea). As the reader progresses through the levels, the complexity of the 'key' increases, while previous 'keys' are reviewed.

A well planned set of books would be accompanied by some kind of documentation for the school/ educator on the best order to progress through the levels.

That documentation might include scope and sequence.

Bookbot Scope and Sequence for Unit 1 Books

This scope and sequence chart clearly lists the sound/ rule or syllable type focus for each level within the unit. As the level increases, the word bank increases.

Here comes the tricky part of levelled readers...

There is currently no agreed upon order that language structures are taught in our schools across the country (though NSW recently released a recommended order to teach phonics in the latest Literacy Syllabus).

In other words, which sounds/combinations does the educator expose the learner to first?

Does teaching the sounds of less commonly used letters like 'x' and 'z' come before teaching 'sh'? Or should all the basic symbols be taught first before starting to combine them?

Most schools chose a sequence they wish to follow and this often comes from a professionally produced program, which includes levelled books.

But this does not mean that the school (or teacher) needs to stick to one set in order to preserve their own preference (or throw out every book they have to start with a new set).

As educational theories come and go - so will the order that we teach the structure.

As long as the educator can refer to the scope and sequence (of the levelled set) they have the information they need to choose a book which reflects the focus of their current lesson.

So rather than limiting themselves to one set, method, or order, I believe a great teacher will pick and choose from a variety of different sets to suit their teaching style and the profile of their students.

If you would like more information on how Bookbot Scope and Sequence flows, please feel free to leave a comment, or visit the Bookbot website

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