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Make your own readers for young learners, part 1

by Terry Phillips


It is not easy to find readers which actually teach reading. But you don’t have to buy readers if you are prepared to do a bit of work yourself. In fact, as an experienced teacher of young learners whose first language is not English, you can probably produce better readers than you can buy from a market obsessed with repurposing readers produced for native speaker children of the same age.


Choose a story with a strong narrative structure. In other words, one with a plot line with a number of separate incidents which are clearly linked. Fables and fairy tales nearly always meet this criterion – like this example:


Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and his mother are very poor. They have one goat. Jack goes to the market. He sells the goat. He gets three beans. He takes them home and gives them to his mother. His mother throws them out the window ….


Type the separate incidents on different pages. Use a sans serif font, like Calibri. Use simple syntactic structure – mainly S V C/O A. Put each sentence on a different line. Use narrative present because you don’t want the first encounter to with a verb to be the simple past – Jack went / sold / got…


[page 1]

Jack and his mother are very poor. 

They have one goat.

Jack goes to the market.

[page 2]

He sells the goat. 

He gets three beans.

He takes them home.


Find a suitable illustration or set of illustrations for each page/incident. Free clip art is fine, so don’t break copyright. Pre-teach the key vocabulary from the whole story. Remember that non-native adults must know 90% of vocabulary in a text to guess the other 10%. For young learners, the percentage is probably higher. Type the words on flashcards, lower case. Teach the word, then flash it for children to learn to sight read it.


For example:





To be continued in part 2.


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