A language landmark

The Primary English Encyclopaedia: The Heart of the Curriculum.By Margaret Mallett. David Fulton pound;16. Tel: 020 7405 5606.

A year or so ago I wrote in a review for The TES that no one book could cover every aspect of primary English teaching today. The subject is so vast, so integral to everything that happens in the primary classroom, and so intensely controversial that a single volume - especially by one author - could never hope to do it justice. I was wrong.

Margaret Mallett's Primary English Encyclopaedia is a most remarkable achievement. In alphabetical order - starting with "Abbreviations" and ending with "Zone of proximal development" - it tackles everything anyone could possibly want to know about the teaching of language and literacy, and does so with clarity, practicality and considerable panache.

To do justice to complex or controversial areas, such as "Early years language and literacy", "Speaking and listening" and "History of English teaching", there are 17 extended entries - mini-essays that combine passionate concern with balanced, rational argument. All entries are extensively cross-referenced, and each ends with a list of suggested further reading, including relevant website addresses.

Margaret Mallett, a visiting tutor at Goldsmiths College, wrote the book at the request of her students, who wanted a starting point for learning about language and literacy. But as an acclaimed author and researcher in the field, she also set herself the aim of writing a book that "soars above the requirements of the day to capture some things of enduring importance about the Primary English classroom" (after all, as her subtitle points out, English is the heart of the curriculum). She fulfils that aim admirably. I believe a generation of students and teachers will be grateful for Mallett's courage in undertaking this daunting project and her thoroughness and scholarship in researching it.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you