As part of an integrated cross-curricular ITDTsocial and personal education project, a group of children were left to devise an alarm that would alert everyone in the class to the moment that Daniel's bottom left its chair. They came up with something that worked to perfection. Unfortunately, the buzzer never stopped buzzing because Daniel was a right wrigglebottom.
Daniel precisely fits the eponymous character in June Crebbin's story Wrigglebottom contained in this pack of new books for the Cambridge Reading scheme. Struggling readers like Daniel - he would recognise the scenario in The Flying Football as well as himself in Wrigglebottom - are the target for these Bridging Books, which are intended for Year groups 2 and 3.
The interest level seems about right, with stories about cats, horses, dogs and apples in which the most commonly recurring character is grandmother. Gerald Rose introduces us to Gran, and in June Crebbin's stories it is granny whom we meet. Is there a social distinction here?
Connecting threads weave through each group of stories but they are not in any way serial and can be read independently. In order to signal some progression, the books are nevertheless arranged into three different levels (A,B,C), but you can hardly see the joins.
Cambridge Reading is an excellent series and these books are a useful addition to it, but they are nothing special. Susan Hellard's illustrations to June Crebbin's books are so loose they are falling apart, and the stories, although cheerful and workmanlike, never really sparkle.
A 160-page Teacher's Guide supports these 12 thin volumes and it contains everything you could possibly want to make aliteracy hour last a lifetime - assessment, developing a sight vocabulary, activities, worksheets (photocopiable of course), text for marking miscue analysis, learning objectives, teaching points for pronouns and question marks and sentence construction and speech marks and - need I go on? The Teacher's Guide tells you precisely what to do before reading the book, while reading the book and after reading the book.
The guide is a supreme example of the genre, but I do hope that no teacher does it all, for children must sometimes simply be left to enjoy a good story. If the trend towards the minute interrogation of text doesn't stop soon, pupils, as well as teachers, will become immobilised, like Lot's wife, although not by the Almighty, but by analysis paralysis.
Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's primary school, Blunsdon, Wiltshire