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December 11, 2019

In a previous article, The Importance of Developing Coptic Language Benchmarks Based on the CEFR, we talked about graded readers but not in detail. We learned how adopting the CEFR and adapting it in Coptic language will help in self and official assessment of the Coptic language learner, but also in developing pedagogical material that is suitable at each level of the six CEFR levels, not too easy and not too difficult, with the aim of taking the learner one step higher, and we said that this is probably one of the most important purposes of a CEFR system. With a graded readers system one can progress from a lower to a higher level until one reaches the level of proficiency. This helps in designing teaching programmes and improving teaching.

Now, I would like to talk in more detail about graded readers, which I believe is essential for the Copts as they try to revive their language. But what are “Graded Readers”? The Extensive Reading Foundation, a non-profit, charitable organisation whose purpose is to support and promote extensive reading, defines Graded Readers in the following way:

Books of various genres that are specially created for learners of foreign languages. They may be simplified versions of existing works, original stories or books that are factual in nature. They are ‘graded’ in the sense that the syntax and lexis are controlled in order to make the content accessible to learners of the language. Publishers normally issue reader series with 4-6 different reading levels to suit a range of skill levels and allow progress over time. The Extensive Reading Foundation also refers to graded readers as Language Learner Literature (LLL), indicating that they comprise a valid, ‘authentic’ type of literature aimed at a specific readership.[1]

Using the CEFR system, Graded Readers are published in graded levels of a series names according to the following: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2, from basic to advanced; and each level using expanded headword counts. A headword is similar to a dictionary entry where a group of words share the same basic meaning, e.g. helps, helping, helpful, helpless.[2] The aim is to use not only graded headwords but graded grammar and stories complexity.

Graded readers are written with specific levels of grammatical complexity in mind and with vocabulary that is limited by frequency headword counts. For example, Level 1 in a series might be restricted to 500 headwords, Level 2 to 600 headwords, and Level 3 to 700 headwords. Simple English Wikipedia is designed along similar lines. Other factors taken into consideration when selecting titles to publish, or determining levels, might include, the number and range of characters; the complexity of the plot; the expected background of the target audience.[3]

An example of the English Graded Readers publishers is the Pearson English readers, which says in its website: “With Pearson English Graded Readers, learners can enjoy reading at any English language level. Pearson English Readers are world-renowned stories rewritten for English learners. English learners of any age can enjoy and learn from reading, whatever their language level, as each series is graded to different levels. With Pearson English Readers, English learners will be motivated to read, learn and succeed.”[4] Pearson uses six levels for children books (Pearson English Kids Readers) from 1 to 6 with headwords 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, and 1200, respectively). For adults (Pearson English Regular and Active Readers), they have seven levels, Easystarts, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) with corresponding CEFR scale:[5]


For the reader or teacher to decide which level the individual should start at, Pearson provides tests to determine levels.[6] The British Council[7] and Oxford University[8] also use Graded Readers. Graded Readers are used in other languages too, such as in French, German and Russian.


Graded Readers are essential in learning any foreign or second language. The Copts sadly learn their national language today as second language, and Graded Coptic Readers are essential for that effort. It is not an easy matter. It needs linguists and educationalists that are proficient in Coptic – not just enthusiasts – to join efforts; and I suspect Copts will need assistance from non-Copts in doing so. It also needs financial resources. For this all Copts, particularly wealthy Copts, are called to help.


[1] See: ERS, Graded Readers.

[2] Ibid.

[3] See: Wikipedia, Graded reader.

[4] See: Pearson.

[5] See: Pearson.

[6] Ibid.

[7] See: British Council, Using Graded Readers.

[8] See: Oxford Graded Readers.

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