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The letters of the law

LETTERLAND EARLY YEARS MATERIALS. Collins. Handbook Pounds 16.99. Big Picture Code Cards Pounds 19.99 plus VAT. Handwriting Copymasters Pounds 21.99 plus VAT. Workbooks Pounds 1.10 each.

Large Pictogram copymasters Pounds 13.50 plus VAT. Ideas for science and technology Pounds 14.99. First sticker dictionary Pounds 3.99. Early years cassette Pounds 3.40 plus VAT

Letterland's characters have become a legend in their own lexicon. From Annie Apple to the Zig Zag Zebra, the alphabet people represent the friendly face of English language for thousands of children.

The new range of Letterland materials takes them all further across the curriculum for teachers and down the High Street for parents.

Letterland offers a structured system and a modicum of enter-tainment for teaching each letter's name and initial sound by providing these simple characters in gentle adventures. Later on, the storytelling approach brings letter characters together to make some sense out of blended sounds. The tales may be twee, the characters rather cardboard cut-out for some adult taste, but they appeal to most children. The visual link between letter formation and letter sound helps to fix the graphic image of individual letters in the memory, tying together the trilogy of speaking and listening, reading and writing.

The new early years handbook is readable, contains sound advice on handwriting basics, such as pencil grip and posture, alongside ideas for bringing letters to life through display, role play, art and other curriculum angles. There is a full transcript of the early years cassette which cues the introduction of each character with a near-overdose of alliteration.

The photocopiable pictogram pack provides large-scale handwriting and colouring practice with a smattering of conversational phonics thrown in.

The book of ideas for science and technology provides from six to a dozen extension ideas for observation work, practical and theoretical activities associated with each Letterland character. Some of the concepts, such as the magnetic and conductive properties of gold, might prove over-complex for children who are still acquiring basic language skills.

The quartet of children's workbooks each provide reinforcing exercises for a section of the alphabet. They need to be used with intensive adult support and some care as there are one or two instances of pot-ential graphemephoneme confusion. For example, is it incorrect if a child sees the picture of a kitten as a cat and associates this with the sound of Kicking King? Is it a tic or a tick? From ticking to sticking: the dictionary for tiny tots will sell well, I suspect, as a simple, clear start to reading at home with mum or dad.

And that, my cheery chums, is what Busy Barber, Dippy David, Clever Chris and Ticking Tim are all interested in right now, Literacy for the masses through traditional methods. Perhaps it's a matter of taste, rather than spelling.

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