ESL Literacy Readers

Posted: 1 March 2017

Author: Emily Robinson Leclair, Community Learning Network

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Comments: 6

Recommendations: 1

One of the activities I enjoyed doing in volunteer tutor training was to have volunteer tutors create their own easy readers. I would take an existing easy reader from our collection, cover the text with a post it note and ask tutors to work in pairs to create their own text to accompany the pictures. Inevitably, the writing was too complex, vocabulary too difficult and sentences too long for a beginning reader. This exercise illustrated that contrary to their name, creating easy readers is a difficult task.

Fortunately, volunteer tutors or literacy practitioners are not required to write their own easy readers. Instead there are a number of great resources available. One such resource is the ESL Literacy Readers collection created by ESL instructors at Bow Valley College. These stories demonstrate best practices for the creation of easy readers:

1. Choose relevant themes. Learners will understand and better relate to stories that speak to their everyday lives.

2. Keep vocabulary simple. Stories should consist primarily of vocabulary familiar to learners; only a few new words should be introduced in a reading. Repetition of key words is critical, particularly with the lower CLB Phases.

3. Choose fonts carefully. Font type and size are both important. Fonts should be clear, easy-to-read and larger than in non-literacy materials. At the lower CLB Phases, the font used should not contain the script version of ‘a’; however, it should be introduced in higher phases as it is found in most authentic print.

4. Include plenty of whitespace. An uncluttered page is critical in stories written for LIFE. The amount of whitespace can decrease with higher CLB Phases- our stories can be used as models for this.

5. Use authentic pictures. Good pictures facilitate comprehension a great deal. The more realistic the pictures are, the more easily learners will interpret them - a photograph is better than a drawing, for example.
(Retrieved from page 10 of, February 24, 2017)

What is ESL Literacy?

Learning for Life: an ESL Literacy Handbook clearly defines ESL Literacy, “It is not the same thing as ESL; nor is it the same thing as Adult Basic Education. Rather, it is the intersection of two fields: the acquisition of a second language at the same time as the development of literacy.” (Retrieved from page 3 of Learning for LIFE an ESL Literacy Handbook, February 24, 2017)
While these readers have been developed specifically for use with ESL Literacy learners, the stories will likely appeal to both ESL and ABLE (Adult Basic Literacy Education learners.

Tell me more about ESL Literacy Readers:

• High interest, theme-based stories: food, shopping, money, housing, transportation, employment, leisure, health, school and clothing
• Encourage everyday literacy with practical and relevant topics that can be extended into real-life activities
• Include colour photos of real learners
• Written for the reading skills required by Canadian Language Benchmark Phases 1, 2 & 3

Where do I find ESL Literacy Readers?
All of these exceptional resources are available online for FREE! You can access them through the ESL Literacy Network or search “ESL Literacy Readers” on the CALP Portal to pull up this list:

ESL Literacy Readers Guide

ESL Literacy Readers Phase 1

ESL Literacy Readers Phase 2

ESL Literacy Readers Phase 3

Within each CLB phase, there are a minimum of four stories written for each of the sub-phases: Initial, Developing and Adequate. You will find two files for each of the readers. The ‘preview copies’ have been created to allow you to preview the story online. The ‘print copies’ have been formatted for printing as a booklet. You will also find printing instructions are included. For example, print settings: legal sized paper, landscape, double sided, flip on the short side.

Wait, there’s more…

Most recently, curriculum pages and lesson plans have been developed for the ESL Literacy Readers. These one page documents include: pre-reading and introduction activities, vocabulary, discussion prompts and homework. Until they are made available online you can access the curriculum pages and lesson plans through Lynn Webb at the Bow Valley College Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement

Happy Reading!

Emily Robinson Leclair
Regional Support Staff, South
Community Learning Network


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