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Literacy skills come into play

OXFORD READING TREE GAMES STAGES 1 - 3. Oxford University Press Pounds 60

Oxford Reading Tree publications are popular because the writing and illustration successfully engage children in exploring language. The soap-opera style provides familiar context and characters, while storylines, script styles and vocabulary develop.

The supplementary resources include language workbooks, tapes and simple interactive software. The set of games for stages 1-3 is one of a range of well-conceived new activity packages.

Oxford Reading Tree is well-placed to help deliver the proposals emerging from the Government's literacy task force, providing a variety of enjoyable, structured approaches to all three areas of literacy.

Speaking and listening, reading and recording skills are all brought into play. The strategies and skills involved in games are harnessed to foster effective learning.

The 24-page guide for teachers charts 25 key literacy skills as well as concepts such as sequencing, left to right orientation and spatial memory. These are cross-referenced to a selection of more than 100 possible game variations.

For each, there are clear descriptions and rules. Many are Oxford Reading Tree versions of familiar formats, such as Ten Questions, with its echo of animal, vegetable or mineral quizzing skills. Others, such as Recorded Lotto, provide a simple way of reworking a language activity, just as a chess game can be replayed for further analysis of the thinking involved. This is excellent material for mainstream language development and has great potential for special needs work.

Inside the box there's the robust, cloth-backed Oxford Reading Tree big board. This is designed for track games, which can be played at several levels of difficulty by two to eight players. Fourteen variations are provided in the guidance, but it would be easy to dream up more.

Six laminated small boards offer 16 more games, used with key word tiles, character cards and storybooks for groups of two to four children. Twelve Lotto boards use key word tiles in picture or text format to help build the basis of sight recognition.

There are 74 character cards for sorting, matching or collecting games that bridge language and mathematical concepts. Simple character jigsaws allow children to try deconstruction or reconstruction or invent new personalities. With 10 character card games, three jigsaws and a partridge in a pear tree, this is ready-to-go literacy at a bargain price of around 60p a game.

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