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Getting power out of your teaching: Tips for Reading Recovery and Early Intervention teachers

Working with Level 1 Books

I was recently observing a teacher working with a beginning reader named Vanessa. Vanessa was reading a Level 1 book (Guided Reading Level A). The teacher told me that Vanessa has very limited language so she was using a book with just two words on the page (the ball, the bat, the mitt, etc.). The little girl was struggling. I asked if I could try a different book.

Bella and Rosie Early Readers - Rosie Likes Pink

I used Rosie Likes Pink. First, I told Vanessa the book was going to be all about the things that Rosie has that are pink. Next, we looked at the pictures, and then I read to her and had her repeat the first sentence. Vanessa read the book perfectly and asked her teacher if she could take it home to read to her family. “I can read this!” she said.

Providing the right book for a beginning reader is very important. Here are some things to consider when selecting a Level 1 book. 

● The book should have an easy language structure and easy-to-learn sight words. Here are some examples of language structures with easy sight vocabulary:

I am running

I like pizza.

Mom is cooking.

Here is a ball.

Look at my ribbon.

Dad can see a car.

● The sentence on each page should be a complete sentence. Books with simple phrases like a bat, a ball, or a mitt are unacceptable because they are not complete sentences.

● The pictures should clearly illustrate the sentence.

● The font size and spacing should be clear and wide.

The nonfiction book Insects is another example of a Level 1 book.

Pioneer Valley Books Nonfiction Books

Notice how clearly the picture illustrates the text and the high frequency words (Here, is, and a) used on each page.

Introducing a Level 1 book

Your book introduction should be very supportive. The goal is to have the student ready to successfully read the story. 

● Provide a brief synopsis of the story.

● Provide an example of the language structure and have the student repeat it. You may want to read the first page or two (Note: I suggest this only at Level 1 and 2.).

● Ask the student to then find one or two high frequency words in the text. 

For example, for Snacks for Porcupine, I might say, “This story is all about what Porcupine likes to eat.”  Then I might say, “Porcupine says, ‘I like to eat apples.’ You say that with me.”

Pioneer Valley Books Snacks for Porcupine

I would introduce high frequency words by saying, “What letter would the word like start with. Find the word like in your book.” Next I would ask the student to start reading using her reading finger. (Note: I almost always ask children reading at Level 1 and 2 to read with a reading finger. At level 3 or 4/C I start to ask children to stop using a reading finger, because it will get in the way of developing fluency.)

Keep in mind that to foster acceleration of learning you need to keep it easy to learn!

Michèle Dufresne is author of many Pioneer Valley Books  early readers (including the Bella and Rosie series), Word Solvers (Heinemann), and an early literacy and literacy intervention consultant.

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