About Vula Bula


The Vula Bula African language graded reading series offer carefully structured graded texts for early, emergent and fluent readers in the form of beautifully illustrated stories, contextualised to the young reader’s inner world and life experiences. The books are short and simple, and contain predictable text to facilitate and encourage reading for enjoyment. Simple sentence structures and familiar vocabulary enable rapid reading progress. Clear and detailed illustrations help understanding. The Vula Bula methodological approach takes cognisance of the agglutinative and, where applicable, conjunctive nature of each African language so that the texts are based on the specific orthographical building blocks of each language.

The graded readers can be used for shared, group, guided, paired and independent reading. This reading practice will develop skills such as phonic awareness, word recognition, comprehension, vocabulary and fluency. The readers provide multiple opportunities for guided practice in phonic decoding and look-and-say strategies.

Humour is an important feature of many of the stories. Several texts include facts about animals, people in the community, places in our environment, and South Africa. Stories encourage self-reflection, critical thinking and problem-solving.

Stages of reading development

Reading is a skill which develops in stages – it is an ongoing process.

Reading is a skill which develops in stages – it is an ongoing process. Every child moves through each stage of reading development at their own pace, when he or she is ready. Children cannot be rushed or pushed through these stages. The way learners progress as readers is based on their individual ability and experience, not their age or grade level.

Early Emergent Readers

Aspiring readers are just beginning to grasp the basic concepts of book and print. They are acquiring a command of the alphabet with the ability to recognize and name upper- and lowercase letters. They are also developing many phonological awareness skills, such as recognising phonemes, syllables, and rhyme. Early Emergent readers are beginning to learn sound/symbol relationships--starting with consonants and short vowels--and are able to read CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, as well as a number of high-frequency words. Books at this level have:

  • Strong picture support
  • Carefully controlled text
  • Repetitive patterns
  • Controlled, repeated vocabulary
  • Natural language
  • Large print
  • Wide letter spacing
  • Familiar concepts
  • Limited text on a page

Emergent Readers

Readers at this stage have developed an understanding of the alphabet, phonological awareness, and early phonics. They have command of a significant number of high-frequency words. Emergent readers are developing a much better grasp of comprehension strategies and word-attack skills. They can recognise different types of text, particularly fiction and nonfiction, and recognise that reading has a variety of purposes. Books at this stage have:

  • Increasingly more lines of print per page
  • More complex sentence structure
  • Less dependency on repetitive pattern and pictures
  • Familiar topics but greater depth

Early Fluent Readers

At this stage, reading is more automatic, with more energy devoted to comprehension than word attack. Readers are approaching independence in comprehending text. These readers are experiencing a greater variety of text and are able to recognise different styles and genres. Independence often varies with the type of text being read.
Books at this stage have:

  • More pages
  • Longer sentences
  • More text per page
  • Richer vocabulary
  • Greater variation in sentence pattern
  • Less reliance on pictures
  • More formal and descriptive language

Fluent Readers

Readers have successfully moved from “learning to read” to “reading to learn”. Their reading is automatic and is done with expression and proper pauses. Their energy is devoted to understanding, and they have good command and use of the various comprehension strategies. These readers read a wide range of text types and do so independently. They will continue to refine and develop their reading skills as they encounter more difficult reading materials. But for the most part, they are capable of improving their reading skills and selection of materials independently through increased practice. Books at this stage have:

  • More text
  • Less familiar, more varied topics
  • Challenging vocabulary
  • More complex sentences
  • Varied writing styles
  • More description

Grade 1 Series

The readers are graded according to a star rating.

There are 32 readers altogether at this level. The readers are graded according to a star rating. The stars that appear in the top right corner on the front cover of each reader represent the reading level.

All the books must be mastered at a particular star level before the learner can progress to the next level. This means that the learner needs to read and understand all the books at that level, including learning the relevant phonics and sight words, before progressing to the next star level. A list of all the titles (and number of readers) at each star level is provided on the back cover of each reader. For example, in the Grade 1 isiZulu programme:

1-star level

10 readers / titles

2-star level

5 readers / titles

3-star level

5 readers / titles

4-star level

5 readers / titles

5-star level

5 readers / titles

6-star level

1 readers / titles

Flexible Readers

The Vula Bula readers are flexible. Children do not all read at the same level at the same time. The simpler readers are just as enjoyable as the more complex ones.

On the inside front cover of each reader are sight words taken from the text. These may be high-frequency words; they may also be hard-to-read words that contain unfamiliar phonic structures. Furthermore there may be revision sight words that have been introduced in previous star levels.

In addition, there are lists of words containing specific phonic structures taken from the text. These are usually consonant blends, digraphs and clusters. Phonic structures that appear in the text but which have already been introduced in previous readers are also revised.

Reading Record

A Reading Record page for each child accompanies the set of 32 Level 1 readers. The Reading Record is used to monitor the reading progress of each individual learner. Every learner must have his/her own Reading Record. This allows the child to share responsibility and take pride in their own reading development. The teacher will use the Reading Record to document whether a learner has managed to master all the stories at a particular star level. This means that the learner has to be able to read all those texts fluently and with understanding. Once this is the case then the learner may progress to the next star level. Keeping an accurate record for each learner is very important as every star level builds incrementally on the phonics, sight words, vocabulary and sentence structures that have been previously introduced and practised.

Grade 3 Series

The Grade 3 Vula Bula graded readers provide practice for early fluent readers.

The Grade 3 Vula Bula graded readers provide practice for early fluent readers. Readers at this level contain more pages, more text per page, longer sentences, greater variation in sentence pattern, more formal and descriptive language, and richer vocabulary. Reading now becomes more automatic, with more energy devoted to comprehension than to word attack/decoding as learners approach reading independence.

The Grade 3 series is currently available in four of South Africa’s indigenous languages, namely isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi and Setswana. These readers are also graded in terms of difficulty, taking into account text length, amount of information provided, and conceptual difficulty. These readers may also be used for shared, group, guided, paired and independent reading.

Each graded reading pack consists of eight graded readers (containing four different stories, including non-fiction texts) and a Model Answers Book. Two readers should be completed each term:

Term Readers

  • Term 1: Reader 1A and Reader 1B
  • Term 2: Reader 2A and Reader 2B
  • Term 3: Reader 3A and Reader 3B
  • Term 4: Reader 4A and Reader 4B

Before reading

Each story is preceded by a list of vocabulary words. The teacher must introduce these words to the learners, and explain their meanings where necessary, before the learners read the story. The learners should copy these words into their exercise books and write sentences with them. Each story is also preceded by a list of “hard-to-read” words which the learners must decode and practise before they read the story in order to facilitate reading fluency and comprehension. The learners can also copy these words into their exercise books for reading practice.

After reading

Each story is followed by a variety of comprehension questions, a language activity and a writing activity. The teacher must ensure that the learners understand how to complete these questions and activities in their exercise books so they are able to work independently on their own, in pairs or in small groups. The comprehension questions are structured in accordance with the types of questions devised in the Annual National Assessments including closed and open-ended questions, multiple choice, sequencing events in the story, and true and false. The language activities and writing activities are specifically linked to the Grade 3 Home Language Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for each indigenous African language.

The Model Answers Book

The Model Answers Book contains the answers to the comprehension questions and language activities in the readers, and provides exemplars for the writing activities.

The purpose of these model answers is to provide the teacher and the learners with guidelines as to the correct answers required by the comprehension questions, and language and writing activities. The model answers include both memoranda and exemplars. Obviously each learner will answer an open question in their own way. As long as the core answer is embedded in the sentence, it is acceptable, even if the wording differs from that of the suggested model answer.

For large classes, the model answers can be photocopied and given to those learners who are able to check their own work accurately and with understanding, working independently or in pairs or groups.

To order Vula Bula readers, click here.