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Literacy: writing

WRITING FOR DIFFERENT PURPOSES: teaching about genre in the early years. By Jeni Riley and David Reedy. Paul Chapman pound;15.99.

The key principle that informs Developing Writing is that the journey towards literacy should be "life-enhancing". It explores how teachers help children to write with increasing control over different forms.

Early years literacy issues are explained well, such as teachers can best intervene to move young writers forward and support development from knowledge-telling to knowledge-transforming types of writing. Research and theorising about the development of writing has generated many books and, inevitably, some familiar ground is covered here. But these authors present the arguments with energy and offer useful suggestions on grounding the writing of the very young in contexts that have meaning. Early attempts at narrative fiction, poetry and informational genres are covered, but the roe of the computer receives surprisingly little attention.

Even the very young, the authors insist, are perfectly capable of arguing a point of view if the teacher embeds the writing in children's own experience and concerns. In a lively case study on the persuasive genre, the teacher skilfully leads a Year 1 class towards a consideration of different opinions about keeping animals in a zoo. The detailed account of how an argument can be developed is a great help.

Literacy strategy and curriculum frameworks are not simply set out but discussed and evaluated, and never allowed to inhibit the author's own views. Readers are not told what to think but invited to reflect on the issues in an informed way. Teachers will appreciate a book that treats them like professionals, concerned to base an effective and enjoyable literacy programme on sound knowledge about children's development.

MARGARET MALLETT

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