What is a story for early reading?

Young children who are learning to read need stories that make them want to turn the page to see what happens next. They need pictures that help them to make meaning of the words, even if they can’t read all the words well. They need stories that have some words they can read because they have heard the words before. They need to listen to stories that are more difficult to read. Older children and adults can read these stories to them. Children learn new words and new ideas from these read aloud stories.

What are the types of stories?

On our website we have folktales, stories in contemporary African settings, games/songs, poems, riddle and rhymes – all intended for the first few years of learning to read – but with an emphasis on stories, with characters and events and problems to be solved.  Because of the importance of pictures as a support for early reading, all stories on the website are illustrated.

Who are we writing for?

The stories are written for children between the ages of 2 and 10 years old. We know that children need to learn to read at different levels. A 10 year old child may still be a beginning reader. There may be some 5 year old children who can read well. We are writing for all these children in Africa. But the children will not necessarily be using the website. We expect adults and older children will use the site to find stories for the younger children.


Story Levels

The stories are not intended as curriculum-linked ‘graded readers’, but as stories children will read for enjoyment alongside their school reading books. However, we would like most of the stories to be ‘read alone’ stories that children learning to read can understand and read on their own.  We are particularly interested in the first two levels described below, because that is where the shortage is most severe.

Level Features of Books Descriptor
  • Single words, phrases, or a short simple sentence per page;
  • Most of the information carried by the illustration;
  • Some books will tell the stories in pictures only.
First words
  • Two or three sentences per page;
  • The illustrations support the understanding of the text.
First sentences
  • One or two short paragraphs with an illustration per page;
  • Not such a close relationship between the illustration and the text.

First paragraphs


  • Longer paragraphs;
  • May not be a picture on every page.
Longer paragraphs

What languages are we focusing on?

To start with, we are working in English as the language of wider communication, and encouraging translations in the main languages of our pilot sites:

  • Uganda:  Lunyole, Luganda, Lugbarati, Lusoga, Sabinyi, Aringa, and Lumasaaba
  • Kenya: Oluwanga (and other Luhya dialects), Maa, Kikamba, Ng'aTurkana, Ekegusii, and Kiswahili
  • Southern Africa: isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana but there are stories in most of the other South African official languages.

- See more at:

Collection Contents

Story by: Clare Verbeek, Thembani Dladla, Zanele Buthelezi Language: English Reading Level: First words Description: My cat has disappeared. Can you see my cat anywhere? Keywords: under, on top, behind, next to, inside, outside - See more at: Illustrators: Bronwen Heath The original version of this story in isiZulu is available at
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