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Literacy Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

The history of Ready to Read: A brief summary

Number One pages 8-9 The first Ready to Read books were distributed to New Zealand schools
in 1963. There were 12 simple stories, known as the “Little Books”, and six longer anthologies.

These texts gradually introduced and repeated common words and sentence patterns. However, unlike earlier series such as Janet and John, they used natural language and avoided dull repetitions. The emphasis was on providing interesting stories, even at the very earliest level.

The Ready to Read series aimed to reflect the experiences of New Zealand children, but due to changing social values, over time it began to appear dated. Many people felt that Ready to Read’s handling of gender roles was flawed – in its stories, girls tended to be less active than boys. There was also limited social and cultural variety.

In 1975, a group of teachers and reading advisers recommended that, as the core national series available in every school, the Ready to Read series should be updated and considerably expanded so that new material could be added as the needs of students changed.

Levelling Ready to Read texts

Guided reading colour wheel The colour wheel was introduced in 1982 to provide guidance about the level of each student text. The colour wheel has since been modified several times, which accounts for the slight variation in its design.

Some older books may have an “S” or an “I” as well as a “G” on the colour wheel. The “S” (for shared reading) reflected the idea that small books could be read with students using a shared reading approach before the students read them as guided texts. Now there are separate texts for shared and guided reading.

The “I” indicated a text that a student would probably be able to read with at least 95 percent accuracy. The intention was to help teachers decide when a book could go into the students’ “independent kit” for practice reading. However, feedback from teachers indicated that having so many letters on the colour wheel was confusing, so the “I” was removed. Any older books that are reprinted will now have only a “G” on the colour wheel.

Previously, the various levels of the colour wheel have also been referred to as emergent (Magenta), early (Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green), and fluency (Orange, Turquoise, Purple, and Gold). Over time, these terms have acquired different meanings in other contexts, so they are no longer used in relation to the core instructional series. For example, “emergent literacy” has a much wider application than the Magenta level of the Ready to Read series, and students can read familiar texts with “fluency” well before they reach the upper colour wheel levels.

Reviewing and improving the series

An ongoing review process ensures that the Ready to Read series meets the needs of today’s students and teachers.

New levelling tools have been developed for the Ready to Read editors. The tools strengthen their work and ensure that the gradations of the colour wheel clearly support the development of a self-extending processing system. The tools take into account a very wide range of text features, including the length of the text, high-frequency vocabulary, complexity and length of sentences, familiarity of context and content, and illustrative support.

In 2014 the existing Ready to Read texts were reviewed using the new levelling tools. As a result of this review, some texts have been assigned to different colour levels (moving for example, from Blue to Green) or to different sub-levels (moving for example, from Blue 3 to Blue 1).

Also as a result of the review, Magenta became one level (rather than two sub-levels) with fewer texts. This change supports a relatively quick transition for students into Red, where texts provide more opportunity for them to begin to develop their reading processing system.

Finally, as a result of the review, some texts will not be reprinted. These texts can still be used as part of a classroom programme.

Texts that reflect students’ lives

When students bring their personal knowledge and experience to their reading, they are better able to connect with a text, construct meaning, and develop new understandings. The range of contexts and themes in Ready to Read texts is continually reviewed to ensure that teachers can use them to build on the knowledge that all students bring to the classroom.

There are now texts specifically designed to speak to Māori and Pasifika students. They reflect the students’ identity, culture, and, where possible, their language.

Ready to Read updates

Updated on: 20 Nov 2014

Ordering resources

These texts are provided to all primary schools. Additional or replacement copies can be ordered from  Down the Back of the Chair.