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In-depth activities;Primary;Reviews;English;Books

THE READ AND RESPOND SERIES Photocopiable activities based on The Mousehole Cat, Thomas and the Tinners, The Wreck of the Zanzibar, Goodnight Mister Tom. Edited by Angel Scott. Scholastic. pound;7.99 each.

Many years ago, the late Edward Blishen considered what teachers should do with books in the classroom. His conclusion was - nothing: just let the stories be read and speak for themselves. In 1972 I agreed with him. I don't now.

Some authors still don't like their books being used for activities like these in Read and Respond. A few even forbid it. I think they're wrong. We aren't talking about Pass-notes or key stage 2 PhD theses but ways of reading and understanding essential for children in these defining days of teaching literacy.

Angel Scott's series takes worthwhile contemporary children's books. There are three levels: beginner, dealing with notable picture books like The Mousehole Cat; intermediate, concerning short but substantial novels like the superb Thomas and the Tinners; and advanced, where novels of rewarding complexity like these by Morpurgo and Magorian are treated.

The photocopiable sheets cover effectively all those activities which carry readers deep into the heart of narratives - prediction, inference, sequencing, contextual reading cues - without skewing response against the story's grain. They give young readers insights into the strongly felt background in time and place each story possesses, yet they let the stories do what Blishen prized above all - speak for themselves even more clearly. Every narrative, simply because it comes from someone else's mind, presents a barrier to the most perceptive reader.

Children, in particular, need unobtrusive introduction to these imaginative worlds. No sensitive authors need fear that their work will be distorted.

There are valuable teacher notes on the presentation of each story and best ways to use the photocopiable sheets so they need never become mere worksheets.

Dennis Hamley

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