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Ethnic-minority booklist choices lacked 'rigour'

MORE than half of the books recommended by the national literacy strategy for teaching English to ethnic-minority children are at least a decade old or out of date.

The strategy suggests 34 fiction and non-fiction texts for five to 11-year-olds - but at least half were published 10 or more years ago and five are out of print.

A book written in 1988, A Country Far Away, by Nigel Gray and illustrated by Philippe Dupasquier, contrasts a British boy's life with that of a child in an African village.

The cover shows the African boy, wearing only shorts, outside a mud hut where goats roam over dusty ground. The British child is riding his bicycle in a suburb with neat houses and shiny cars.

Maggie Gravelle, senior lecturer at Greenwich University school of education, said some of the books were of "dubious quality".

"The list is not rigorous enough. Teachers, who have limited time to select the books they are going to use, need guidance based on clearly-articulated criteria.

"Books need to value diversity and be sensitive to cultural variety and, above all, texts need to be imaginativeand well-written."

The list is contained in guidance sent to local education authorities and teacher-training institutions. Although it is mentioned on the Government's standards website, it cannot be downloaded.

Nina Dohel, a primary advisory teacher in Greenwich, said teachers working with ethnic-minority children should have had copies.

"For some teachers, supporting children with English as an additional language is integral to everything they do in schools but the guidance seems to be an add-on."

The Department for Education and Employment denied it was a recommended booklist, even though those words appear on the top of the list.

The Office for Standards in Education report on the second year of the NLS, published in 1998, said that "over the past 12 months, most schools with EAL pupils have ensured that all pupils are fully included within the literacy hour".


* Have You Seen the Crocodile? by Colin West * Nini at Carnival, by Errol Lloyd * One Rich Rajah, by Sheila Front * Paper Boats, by Rabindranath Tagore * The Farmer's Gift, by Glen Harbott

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