High/low reading books and high interest phonics – what’s the difference?

There are some great high/low (high level of content/ low reading age) books on the market these days, particularly for boys.  Publishers have published some really good quality, motivating books.  What is the difference between those books and decodable readers for older, struggling readers?

I believe that many older readers have gaps in their phonic knowledge and this major obstacle stops them from making progress.  It is great for them to read books at their reading level that engage them – BUT what they mostly need is to be taught the phonic code so that they can decode longer words with complex spellings.

To achieve this, first they need an assessment that will indicate where the missing gaps are; then they need to be taught the missing phonic knowledge or skill and lastly they will need decodable reading books that are age appropriate. The pupils read the books and experience success using the tools they have been taught.   This way the gaps are filled and the pupils can progress to the next level, while self esteem and confidence is built.   The Totem and Talisman Series were published with this aim in mind.  Once the phonic code has been mastered the pupils can practise their  reading using the high/low  reading books.

If you have used these books with your pupils – we would love to hear about how they worked with your pupils.



  1. I used the Talisman with a nine year old very poor reader. First we went through the Dandelion Level readers, reading Level 1 Book 1, then Level 2 book 1, then Level 3 book 1, with lots of reading, sorting and writing words with ‘ae’ spellings. He built up his confidence with the simple text.
    I had to do a lot of segmenting and blending exercises with him at the 4 and 5 sound level. We also looked at syllables with 4 and 5 sounds.
    having worked through the readers (he did not mind the graphics, as we were working one to one and he was very keen to read). After working through the Level books, we then read the Talisman books, and did some of the workbook. He is now making very good progress, but his spelling still needs working on. Now that we have the Totem books, I have started from book 1, working on his spelling using the Totem workbook. I am sorry I did not have the Totem Series when I started working with him!

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