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On the count of three;Primary;Reviews;Books;Music and the Arts

TOM THUMB'S MUSICAL MATHS. By Helen MacGregor. Aamp;C Black. pound;9.99. OXFORD READING TREE: Song Book and CD. By Jan Holdstock. Oxford University Press. pound;20.

As the numeracy and literacy hours stretch across the timetable, it's good to welcome two new books whose academic credentials are impeccable, but which also give young children plenty of scope to sing, listen and play.

Helen MacGregor follows the successful format of books such as Bobby Shaftoe Clap Your Hands, here rewriting familiar tunes to serve both musical and mathematical ends. Her enthusiasm and inventiveness cover counting, numbers and algebra, shapes and mental arithmetic. "Baa Baa Maths Sheep" (adapted for the three-times table) or the "Hokey Cokey" (investigating position and direction) are only two out of nearly 40 original and engaging opportunities in a most valuable book.

Jan Holdstock draws on a seemingly inexhaustible imagination in her composing for young children. She has devised more than 40 songs based on the characters from the early stages of the Oxford Reading Tree.

Biff, Chip and friends use rhyme and repetition to give life to simple melodies and to reinforce the skills needed to decode texts. We also recall activities such as visiting the library. Some songs, such as "Floppy the Hero", need a knowledge of the books from which they derive. Others like "Tooth Fairy" are simply delightful celebrations of life and song for everyone.


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