Literacy Ladders is a five-stage programme promising complete coverage of the national literacy strategy's high frequency word list and phonic requirements at key stage 1. It consists of 165 little books (fiction and non-fiction), 20 big books, and 30 packs of group readers. Teacher's resource books are provided at each stage with suggestions for teaching in shared and guided reading sessions, along with follow-up activities and photocopy masters.
Is this the answer to all your problems and all your pupils' literacy needs? I think not. What drives this programme is the need to meet the phonic requirements of the literacy strategy. If you are looking for texts that will sustain attention at whole-text level, you will have to look elsewhere for the memorable language and illustrations these texts lack. This emphasis is clear in the teacher's resource book, where suggestions for discussion are often minimal compared with detailed suggestions for phonic activities.
In other words, these texts are pre-texts, and teachers will have to decide for themselves whether this is one of the messages about reading they want to teach. They have been written to provide a setting for individual words. At worst, this reveals itself in texts and illustrations that are sloppy in their construction and cohesiveness.
Eric Hadley is director of the University of Wales Institute Cardiff Reading and Language Centre