Jelly and Bean

Frequently Asked Questions

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No. Jelly and Bean is not a synthetic phonic teaching programme.

The first Jelly and Bean stories were written with the smallest number of letters and words that the author could manage. Other letters and words were added in a progression of phonically regular CVC words and, at the same time, the most common irregular words in the English language.

The books were first conceived in 1997 as a response to children who did not immediately 'take off' when learning to read. These children had been taught some of the sounds corresponding to the letters of the alphabet, but they could not read the books available in schools or shops at that time. They were too difficult for them.

It was very important to the author to develop books containing written words that the children could decipher from a picture of something they already knew and the sound of the words spoken by a teacher.  

This is why Jelly and Bean books begin with the simplest words that mean something to children and never use pseudo-words. The development of the first books coincided with the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy in 1998. It made sense to ensure that the words in the stories followed the phonic progression of this strategy and that the high-frequency words to be taught in the Reception Year and Years 1 and 2 were included.

The core 24 books of the A Series (original series) for the Reception Year introduce the 26 letters of the alphabet, 'sh', 'ch' and 'th' and the specific 45 high-frequency words, some of which are regular and some are irregular, of the National Literacy Strategy.

These are 'cat, a, on, in, big, dog, and, the, I, am, can, see, look, at, me, is, no, my, dad, play, to, get, went, it, up, of, go, are, you, said, away, we, for, mum, yes, he, she, they, this, come, was, day, all, ('like, going' were later removed from this series.)

The 'multi-cueing' aspect envisaged by the author, including the use of illustrations as initial clues, the sounds within words and the visual memory of the letter sequences in whole words does not fit the synthetic phonic criteria as set out by the Department for Education, and, hence, the books cannot be classed as a synthetic phonic programme.

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Marlene Greenwood (nee Whalley) was born in Lancashire in 1945. She lived in Ramsbottom until 1951. Then the family bought a shop in Manchester and moved there. Four years later they all moved to Southport. In 1956 Marlene passed the 11 plus examination and began her secondary education at Southport Highschool for Girls.

She gained 9 GCE O Levels in 1961 and 3 A levels in 1963. These were Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. However, Marlene did not go on to higher education. She began working in a prestigious bank in Southport.

After marrying in 1964, she and her husband moved to Wolverhampton and they bought their first house in Shifnal, Shropshire. Her husband's career then took them to Horsforth, near Leeds, in 1968. In 1970 and 1972 their two children were born in Garforth, also near Leeds, and Marlene was a fulltime mother. In 1977, her husband's work took them to Harrogate, where they have lived ever since.

In the late 1970's Marlene studied drawing and painting and gained another GCE A Level in Art. By 1980 she was ready to embark on the next stage of life and went to the local FE college to retake GCE A Level Mathematics. This lead to a degree course at Leeds University in Mathematics and the History and Philosophy of Science, where Marlene gained a BSc Honours degree in 1984.

In 1985 she gained a PGCE and qualified teacher status for secondary Mathematics and Science. She taught pupils of all ability levels aged from 11-18. Her teaching groups ranged from SEN in Year 9 to A Level Pure and Applied Maths. She also taught GCSE Information Technology and Year 9 Physics and Chemistry.

After suffering from 'burn out' in 1996, she retired from teaching. By this time she had two young grandchildren and she became interested in how children learn to read. She wrote and illustrated some books based on phonics in 1997. These have progressed into the complete Jelly and Bean phonic reading scheme of 140 books available today.



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A. Yes. Jelly and Bean books have been structured to form a reading scheme for children of 4-7 years old learning to read in nursery and infant schools or at home.

The stories provide children with small achievable steps when they are learning to read. They learn without any difficulty and enjoy the process. Each series of stories introduces written words with new phonic content and more common irregular words. Each series reinforces the work of the previous series.

The phonic phases that underpin the Jelly and Bean books are those of Letters and Sounds (2007). The phonic teaching strategy on which they are based is that of the National Literacy Strategy (1998).

Within the detailed guidance for these two schemes, the Department for Education identified the elements of a systematic phonic progression and the 100 most common words in written English that children need to know for them to make progress in learning to read and write.

Some of these words are 'phonically regular' and some are 'common exception words'. They have been incorporated into our books gradually. Their first point of introduction can be found in our Reading Order List.

By combining these two aspects of the National Literacy Strategy and Letters and Sounds, we have ensured that our books fit comfortably within the Phonic Phases of Letters and Sounds and also the coloured book-band system for guided reading. Our Reading Order List gives the book-band colour, the phonic phase, the point of introduction of each phoneme/grapheme correspondence, the point of introduction of the 100 most frequently written words in English as well as the next 200 most common words.

View the document on which this is based

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No. The order of introduction of letters and sounds is different in all the phonic programmes. However, they all introduce the letters of the alphabet, the consonant digraphs, 'th, sh, ch' and the vowel digraphs, 'ee, oo' in the Reception Year.

The Phonic Progression  Structure Chart for Jelly and Bean books is available here


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The use of these two words early in the A Series is due to them being on the old list of 45 high-frequency words set out in the National Literacy Strategy in 1998 for children to learn in the Reception Year.

However, they are both very useful verbs to hold CVC words together in simple sentences.

Both words have two identical letters in the middle, 'ee' and 'oo'. It is possible to draw a pair of eyes in each of these letters. The verbs 'see' and 'look' then genuinely do represent their own meanings. In this way, the words 'see' and 'look' become very good reminders of the sounds for 'ee' and 'oo' in other words learnt later.

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The letter 'y' has at least four different roles in the English language, three of these as vowels and one as a consonant. Young children meet these different roles in the very common words 'mummy, my, yes, gym' before they first attend school.

Jelly and Bean books deal with the role used in 'mummy' first. Here the sound at the end of the word 'mummy' is /i/ (or sometimes /ee/, depending on accent and region). Now, 'i' is a shy little letter and does not like to be at the end of a word, so big tough 'y' helps him out and takes his place. This rule is known as the 'Shy i, Toughy y Rule' and it gives children a good way to remember that we use 'y' at the ends of words like 'happy, daddy, sorry' and 'mummy'. Children need to know this rule early so that they can write birthday cards to 'mummy' and 'daddy'.

The second role of 'y' is in words like 'my, by, cry, sky, fly', where it is pronounced as the 'long vowel' of the word 'I'. It is first introduced in the word 'my' in book 10 of the A Series.

The third role of 'y', as a consonant, can be found at the beginning of words like, e.g. 'you, yes, yell, yellow'. It is first introduced in book 15 of the A Extra Series.

The fourth role of 'y' can be found in the middle of words like 'gym, crystal, gypsy'. In words like these 'y' is pronounced the same as the 'short i' /i/.

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Yes. The phonic approach used in the books gives children in the Foundation stage in nursery schools and Montessori schools an easy introduction to reading and writing so that they will be successful and well-motivated learners.

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Yes. Our first book, A1, begins with 7 letters (a, c, h, m, n, o, t) and 5 words (cat, mat, hat, on, a). Letters and words are gradually added to the books in the AB Starter Pack, the First Words Series and Tom and Bella Series 1 until all 19 letters of Phonic Phase 2 of Letters and Sounds have been introduced. All the vocabulary is phonically regular at this stage except for the irregular word 'the'.

Then the Phonic Phase 3 letters, 'j, q, v, w, x, y, z', are introduced in words, followed by the consonant digraphs, 'sh, ch, th, ng', and the vowel digraphs, 'ee, oo, ay'. The 'high-frequency' words for this phase, 'me, my, go, to, no, he, she, we, they, you, are' are introduced at the same time. Some words with consonants to blend are also used as part of the vocabulary.

Please click on the 'Phonics' tab and access each phase from the drop-down menu for full details of the introduction of the letter/sound correspondences.

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Our books are now included in 'Which Book and Why: Using Book Bands and book levels for guided reading in Key Stage 1' published by the Institute of Education Press, 27 February 2014.

To assist teachers as best we can, we have estimated a suitable band ourselves by taking into account the number of words and sentences per page, the complexity of the sentences and the overall structure of the story. Our estimates are in the left-hand column of the reading order list and can be accessed from the Teaching Guides page.

Our books take into account the nature of the vocabulary used, making sure that it progresses gradually from simple to complex. Teachers may see the vocabulary used in each story by clicking on the appropriate icon on the Teaching Guides page.

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Decoding simply means pronouncing the words that are seen written on a page or screen. When children can pronounce a word that they see on a page, i.e. they can say it, then they have 'decoded' it.

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Jelly and Bean are sister and brother. Jelly is the female cat with blue eyes and a white chest, paws and tail. Bean is white around his nose. Otherwise, he is a black cat.  He has green eyes.

Wellington is the father of Kevin. Father and son are farm dogs and they have an outside kennel, although they live in the farmhouse when it is cold and wet.

Lotty is the farmer's pet dog. She has a basket under the kitchen table.

Jelly, Bean, Wellington, Kevin and Lotty all live at Follifoot Farm.

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No. Training is not necessary for anyone to use Jelly and Bean books. They can be used with any approach to teaching reading. The words and illustrations are very closely aligned to make sure that children understand the words on the page. The letters are introduced gradually so that children only have to learn a few at a time. The writing activities help children learn the shape of each letter. By reading, writing and saying the words in the text, children can be taught the grapheme/phoneme correspondences at the heart of the written English language. 

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