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Alpha-plus alphabets

The ABC Collection, By Lyn Gray, Belair Pounds 89.99

Phonic structure is an essential aspect of developing reading, and most young children need to be taught about letter-sound association. The ABC Collection helps this process, by introducing phonic awareness in a meaningful context. The pack consists of The Big ABC Book, The ABC Poster Book, The Children's Hard-Back ABC Book, The Children's Paperback ABC Books (pack of six), and The ABC Teacher's Resource Book.

The same material is thus presented in a range of different formats to suit the needs of teacher or children. Each page is devoted to a letter of the alphabet; a picture illustrates that letter, using people, animals and objects (all beginning with that letter); the vocabulary used in each picture is listed, categorised according to nouns, verbs and adjectives. Each picture is accompanied by a humorous verse, containing many examples of words beginning with the letter of the page.

Recognition of sounds is aided by presenting upper and lower case letters simultaneously (Aa, Bb, etc), which helps to combat visual errors (eg, Bb, Dd) when capitals are distinctive, but the lower case letters are not.

The pack is of high quality, and well presented, and the illustrations are attractive and provide interesting opportunities for discussions. The language flows naturally, and the verse will hold young readers' interest through its humour. The book will stand repeatedreadings.

The teacher's resource book outlines practical teaching activities to reinforce alphabet learning. It suggests ideas for creative story writing and for the teaching of punctuation, as well as activities to explore word roots, prefixes, idioms and similar and opposite meanings. There are also extension activities for more advanced study.

It is a well-founded principle of phonic instruction that phonological awareness is best developed in the context of real reading (rather than as an isolated drill lesson remote from text). The ABC Collection reinforces this view, enhancing phonological awareness through the medium of verse, and providing children with experience of rhyming units (and how they work) in the context of text.

The cost-conscious budget-holder is sure to wonder whether the pack adds Pounds 89.99 of value to their school, and indeed it does, whether as foundation material for the teaching of phonological awareness or as a supplement to existing resources. There are no serious flaws in the pack: it is based on sound principles, the content is stimulating and well presented, and the graphic and artistic quality is high.

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