Frequently Asked Questions
Browse through some of our frequently asked questions below. If you can't find what you are looking for please contact us and we'll be glad to help!
We always love to hear from you, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch:
Phone: 0455 491 199
Please have a scan of these FAQs, just in case your query is answered here.
The Little Learners Love Literacy® Hub in Surrey Hills VIC is is open 9am-5pm Monday-Friday. If you wish to visit us, please contact us to make an appointment. Appointments allow us to give you all our attention and to focus on your queries. We look forward to seeing you at the Hub some time soon!
Yes we do. Please order through our online shop on this website and we will dispatch the order with our usual speedy service!
Yes we do! We want to support you as much as we can to explicitly teach our evidence-based program - and to get the most from your LLLL resources.
- Two-day professional learning workshops (online or in-person). Bespoke events can be requested through our website form.
- Free webinars on various topics run every week during term time with chance to ask us questions after the presentation.
- Our YouTube channel contains lots of 'how to' video clips.
- Make an appointment to speak with us, or drop us an email.
If you are new to LLLL, you might be wondering what you should be sending home instead of a levelled reader every day? Some schools make up a pack that lasts children the whole week, which I think is a neat approach, if it appeals to you. You don't have to send home a different decodable book each day - you'd quickly run out of titles to read even if you had enough copies to go round! Things that are great to send home include:
- Milo Parent Letters - send home the letter provided for each sound in Stages 1-4 (on the TAR USB). This explains what you have been teaching and provides ideas for related phonemic awareness activities and discussion to have at home.
- Picture books from the library for parents to read to children and to discuss with their children - so vital for linguistic comprehension development.
- Decodable books (and a copy of the The Book Checklist)
- Handwriting practice
- Read, write and draw (word/s, phrase/s and/or sentence)
- Mini sound swap and word building using a selection of the Mini Speed Sounds and Chants cards with a simple word chain.
- You could also explore the Pip and Tim and The Wiz Kids apps. The Apple Store does an education volume purchase plan - this allows you to assign and re-assign books to children/families.
Our top tips for homework include:
- Ensure no new learning is taking place at home - just practise/application of skills and knowledge learned in class.
- The most powerful support parents can give at home in Terms 1 and 2 is discussion for oral language development, and reading to their child quality storybooks for linguistic comprehension.
- Decodable books going home are important - we want children to build fluency and confidence, being engaged by a feeling of success and pride in what they can do.
- Don't put too much pressure on homework - play, talk, practice. :)
We had a number of queries about photocopying/scanning our books and resources in 2020. We know that you work in challenging circumstances with budget restrictions and we think you do an amazing job, but we would like remind everybody that it is not okay to photocopy our books and resources – copyright law means permission must be granted from us before copying can be done. This law is crucial to protect the livelihoods of our talented authors and illustrators - we hope you understand. Maureen has kindly granted permission for schools to copy Read, Write and Draw cards. Head to our YouTube channel to find out more about how to use this resource. Schools also have permission to photocopy the speed words in the backs of the decodable books. If you are feeling stuck, please contact us and we will help you work it out.
Decodable Books FAQs
Can't find what you are looking for? Try our free webinar on decodable books (and ask us your questions over a friendly Zoom) or contact us.
Decodable books are stories (or nonfiction texts) written for young or struggling learners to read by ‘decoding’
(sounding out and blending sounds to read words). Each decodable book only uses the sounds and letters that
children have been explicitly taught to date.
Decodable books also use a small number of taught high-frequency tricky words (Heart words) that are not yet decodable, but are needed to construct sentences in continuous text, such as ‘said’ and ‘one’ and ‘the’.
• Only use words that can be decoded (or taught Heart words)
• Follow the phonics teaching sequence used in the classroom, so children never have to read a word that
they cannot sound out and blend
• Provide maximum repetition of the new letters and sounds taught that week
• Have a clear and engaging design that prioritises the text and the engagement of the reader
• Avoid predictable sentence structures
• Use age-appropriate vocabulary
• Are engaging and meaningful continuous texts that also allow readers to build vocabulary and comprehension skills.
Read more in our decodable books brochure.
Or shop for decodable books here.
• To practice and apply letter-sound relationship knowledge taught to date through a meaningful, continuous
• To build fluency and stamina
• To build comprehension
• To build confidence and enjoyment in reading.
“Evidence suggests that phonics teaching is more effective when children are given immediate opportunities to apply what they have learned to their reading (Hatcher, Hulme, and Ellis, 1994); so, for these reasons, we believe that there is a good argument for using decodable readers in the very early stages of reading instruction”. Castles, Rastle and Nation, 2018.
Yes! To reach mastery children should read the book several times. Once children have read it at least once with you at school, the book can be sent home for children to enjoy with their parents. It’s a perfect opportunity for children to build fluency and confidence - and to show off their reading to their family!
• Small group reading: A bit like guided reading, but 100% focussed on phonics instruction, vocabulary &
comprehension and fluency. Visit our SGR blog for support.
• Partner reading: Children read a page each to their partner. The listener helps the reader when they get stuck. They both track the words.
• Independent reading: After the children have read the book with you, they can read it again and again by themselves.
• Word detective: Ask children to find focus words and write them on the cards. Sort them by grapheme. Then write them in their word detective book to build their own wordlists.
• Take home practice: Once you have taught the new phoneme/graphemes and the book has been read in class, you can send it home for repeated practice. This will build fluency and confidence and get children to ‘mastery’ of the new sounds and letters.
• Dictation: Let’s write provides plenty of dictation for the classroom, but parents could pick some sentences from the book to dictate to their child and their child could write it down, later in the week.
The teaching sequence and the decodable book must match up, so that children are never caught out and can always sound out and blend the words in the book. The simplest way is to use the decodable books that come with your systematic synthetic phonics teaching program - this ensures a close match of teaching and application. But every decodable book is part of a sequence and usually has the focus sounds and letters on the back, so you can match in books from other programs too. If your teaching program does not supply decodable books, you might want to consider changing your order of teaching to match the decodable books in your classrooms.
When choosing decodable books it is also important to make sure they are engaging, quality stories or nonfiction - there are plenty of quality decodable texts available to purchase including our series: Pip and Tim and The Wiz Kids!
Parent & Carers FAQs
Little Learners Love Literacy is a sequential, explicit teaching program backed by research. Our director Maureen Pollard and her team are based in Melbourne and they support schools across Australia, New Zealand and beyond with their reading and spelling resources. At LLLL, we believe all children can be successful readers, writers and spellers. They just need the right tools, explicit teaching, plenty of practice and your support. With the LLLL program, you will find everything you need as a teacher or a parent to support children as they learn to read, write and spell. You can read/watch more here.
Little Learners Love Literacy focusses on synthetic phonics teaching to support all children to be successful readers and spellers. Our range of resources support the development of each of the 5 pillars of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension). Take a look at a quick summary on our website here.
A decodable book is a story or nonfiction text that has been written only using the sounds and letters children have learnt to date. This means they have the tools they need to read every word in the book without guessing. Find out more about decodable books on our website.
If your child has been taught the sounds and letters listed on the book cover then they can read it - so let them read it out loud and proud! To really master a LLLL Stage children must be really fluent and automatic in their reading, so don’t be afraid to read it over and over again (the more times the better). Watch this video of our author Berys reading with Ella for some hints and tips. All of our books have notes at the back to support you too. So find a quiet, comfortable space and enjoy!
At home you can help by:
- Reading to your child – We all know how important bedtime stories are, but let us reassure you that reading a range of books to your child is a valuable activity at any time of day. While children develop their own word reading skills, it is vital to hear books read to them for vocabulary and comprehension development.
- Reading and writing practice – Children need lots of practice opportunities to master the phonics knowledge and skills they are being taught (perhaps even more than you think). We have a range of fun games and activities to provide this practice at each stage of your child’s development. We have reduced the prices of our reading and writing practice games and activities to make them more accessible for you at home. You can find all of our discounts in our Learn & Play at Home online store. - Phonemic awareness games - Being able to hear, say and play with sounds is crucial to reading and spelling development in Foundation and Year 1, as well as pre-school. Why not ask your child to touch their t-oe-s, h-o-p or d-a-n-ce.
- Supporting your child’s teacher and school.
You can access a range of activities on the free downloads page of this website. Video support for these activities is available on our YouTube channel.
The Little Learners Love Literacy program uses an evidence-informed teaching approach to support ALL learners to read and spell. This means we have a certain way of doing things and that way is simple and consistent - if your child gets stuck we always go back to sounding out the word. We don’t promote guessing. Watch this very short video for support. Don’t worry … by using these tips and with some positive reinforcement your child will get there. You are doing a great job!
We run regular webinars to support teachers and parents. You can register your interest here. We will then send you information and webinar invites as they become available. We will also share recordings of webinars with anybody who has registered their interest, in case you can’t make it for some reason.
Each of our Pip & Tim decodable books are available as apps. There is an app for each LLLL Stage. The lower stages have audio support to allow children to work independently, and the upper stages have recording functionality to help children improve their fluency. Access the LLLL Apps here. Our Android app is available on the Google Play Store.
There are three Little Learners Love Literacy assessments that match the seven stages of the program. They assess phonological awareness (the ToPALL), reading (the LLASS) and spelling (the LLASS). You can read more about our assessments here.
The LLARS tests alphabetic knowledge and reading skills following the Little Learners Love Literacy Program sequence.
Skills assessed in each subtest:
Subtest 1: Grapheme/phoneme knowledge. Assesses student’s knowledge of the 44 sounds (phonemes) of the English alphabetic code and the corresponding graphemes (spellings) of those phonemes - as covered in the LLLL program.
Subtest 2: Single-word decoding. Assesses student’s ability to apply phoneme/grapheme knowledge to decode one and two syllable words with automaticity. The subtest is split into two word lists: non-words (to check mastery of PGCs and decoding) and real words (to check decoding and also word recognition).
Subtest 3: Heart words for Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4. Assesses automatically recognising and reading 15 words which are not decodable (at this stage but will become decodable as the student learns more about the alphabetic code) but are necessary for connected text.
Subtest 4: reading unseen decodable texts. Assesses student’s ability to read a short connected text by applying their phoneme-grapheme knowledge, decoding and word recognition skills. This subtest assesses decoding, word recognition, fluency, stamina and literal comprehension including vocabulary.
The LLARS is a formative assessment. Use it at least twice per year - at the end of Term 2 and at the end of Term 3 or midway through Term 4. Do not use the LLARS until you have finished teaching Stages 1-4. To keep the assessment to a reasonable time for children’s concentration, we recommend organising two separate sessions per student when you administer the LLARS: Session 1 for the grapheme/phoneme knowledge and single word reading (subtests 1-3); Session 2 for the unseen decodable texts (subtest 4).
We recommend that you keep one folder per student throughout Foundation and Year 1. Keep your student summary sheet/s at the front of the folder showing dates of tests, an overview of scores, and your targets/next steps. Also store your score sheets/notes from each assessment behind the student summary sheet for reference. Each score sheet should be named and dated at the time of assessment using the spaces provided. Use the LLARS Excel templates to record and display your class results. This can also be used to present year-level data.
The aim is the assess and monitor students’ skills to inform your teaching and identify the specific needs of each students. The LLARS will identify exactly what students know and to what level that can apply their skills. Our aim is for every child to demonstrate mastery of each LLLL Stage.
Use the data to:
- plan your next term’s teaching – does anything need to be re-taught to the majority of the class?
- inform your tier 2 intervention groups – do you have any children with common specific skills problems or knowledge gaps that you could address in regular, short group sessions in addition to your usual lessons?
- make arrangements for tier 3 intervention – is any child not achieving as expected? Do they need a more intensive 1-1 program?
- identify areas that more able students need to work on/ could be stretched by – did your more able students read continuous texts fluently? Might they be ready to learn more morphology? Is there non-word reading score as good as their other scores?
feedback to stakeholders -parents/carers, colleagues. This data can be used for report writing as it clearly identifies what the child has mastered, and what is the next step to teach.
The LLARS manual contains guidance and information for error analysis to inform your specific next steps for each child.
(If you have a split year classroom and stream your students into groups, you can also use the LLARS to inform the grouping of your students.)
The LLARS supports an explicit and systematic synthetic phonics teaching approach. It will not correlate with benchmarking kits such as Fountas and Pinnell and PM, which are based on a balanced literacy approach. No phonics-based assessment will do this.
Consider why you are assessing and what you want to find out from it. If you want to know what PM level book a child can read, then the LLARS isn’t for you. If you want to know what alphabetic knowledge and word reading skills your student has and what their next steps are to move them forward (based on reading-science) then the LLARS is for you. Your assessment must match your teaching approach and philosophy. To the best of our knowledge there is no state or federal requirement to report PM levels or similar. If you are concerned about this, you should discuss it with your leadership team and perhaps consider talking to a Little Learners Love Literacy school to share information and experience.
The LLARS does work well with the TOPALL – Test of Phonological Awareness of Little Learners. The TOPALL was developed by Vikki Stone, a speech pathologist in Bendigo. The LLARS will not replace any specific special needs diagnostics that you already have in place. The LLARS can be used very nicely with the Phonics Screening Check. Use the phonics screening check at the end of Year 1 as a summative assessment to see if children have mastered the skills and knowledge required outside of the LLLL program’s progression. It is mandatory to do a Phonics Screening Check in SA at the end of Year 1. The NSW Dept of Education were trialling a Phonics Screening Check in 2020.
No, the LLARS does not assess spelling. Little Learners Love Literacy® have developed the Little Learners Assessment of Spelling Skills (the LLASS) to assess spelling separately.
The LLARS is free and can be downloaded from our website. You can also purchase a hardcopy LLARS Teacher Manual (or pack of manuals) from our website if you wish to.
Yes - the new edition of the LLARS includes a non-word (or nonsense word) test.
The Single-Word Reading Subtest 2 now consists of: Real words, which test decoding and word recognition*, and non-words, which test decoding and mastery of PGC knowledge.
Non-words are not real words, but they use phoneme-grapheme correspondences in a regular way so we can decode them and read them out loud. Words like ‘zog’, ‘brip’ and ‘flait’ are examples of non-words.
The Little Learners Love Literacy® program is designed to get children reading and spelling at a mastery level and non-words are an effective tool for assessing this.
It is impossible for students to recognise or memorise non-words because they have never seen them before - they have to use their phonic knowledge to sound out and blend to read these unfamiliar words. This is especially useful in the early stages when CVC words are often familiar high-frequency words. If children can recognise and read these familiar words this is great news, but we also need to be sure they have mastered the phonics content you have taught. Non-words simulate the scenario we want to prepare ALL students for - being able to read any word familiar or not by using their phonic knowledge.
Non-words are an assessment tool only. Non-words should not be taught or practised; they are not otherwise part of the Little Learners Love Literacy® program. A pronunciation guide is provided in the teacher materials for your reference.
*Whole word recognition, now commonly referred to as orthographic mapping, is the ability to read words with automaticity. Once a word has been decoded a number of times, children should be able to read the word without sounding and out and blending every time. This is not the same as memorising words.
The quick answer to this question is no - the LLARS is not currently a norm-referenced test.
What is a norm-referenced test? A norm-referenced test is an assessment (often made up of multiple-choice questions, but not always) designed to compare and rank your students with a comparison group of students. Test results are presented in percentiles (e.g. a percentile of 80 means that the student’s score is better than 80% of children who have already taken the test). This allows you to see if your students perform better or worse than a hypothetical average student taking the test.
Norm-referenced tests work best and are most useful to us, if:
- we are working off a common set of standards (curriculum) and therefore have common goals or benchmarks
- the comparison group is roughly comparable to your students/classrooms
- the assessment is online to capture the data
- your aim is to compare students’ abilities.
Norm-referenced tests are not usually used to tell you whether the skills and knowledge taught to date have been acquired and mastered by the student. An example might be to compare the purpose between an IQ test (compares people’s intellect against each other) and a quiz (do you have the knowledge or not?).
How does the LLARS work instead?
We ask that you get all your children to master Stage 6 by the end of Foundation year, and Stage 7.4 by the end of Year 1. These are our benchmarks for our teaching sequence. If they are achieved then children will have the skills and knowledge required to pass the Phonics Screening Check, and to progress into Year 2.
The LLARS is freely available and can be used by schools who are teaching with the LLLL program and by those who are not - so long as the school is teaching systematic synthetic phonics and are aware of any difference between the LLLL Stages and their own teaching sequence.
The LLARS is the Little Learners Assessment of Reading Skills.