Novel boost to reading

Kelpie Topic Studies Set 1: Sula by Lavinia Derwent; Flash the Sheepdog by Kathleen Fiddler; Quest for a Kelpie by Frances M Hendry Set 2: Six Lives of Fankle the Cat by George Mackay Brown; A Pistol in Greenyards by Mollie Hunter; Robbie by Emil Pacholek.Notes by Jim Allan, Sallie Harkness and Anne McGregor. Plastic wallets containing novel plus A4 teacher's manual, #163;11.99 each. Published by Hodder and Stoughton.

Busy teachers seeking to develop higher order reading skills through the study of vivid, dynamic Scottish literature will welcome the Kelpie Topic Studies.

The packs consisting of one excellent Scottish novel and one slim, teachers' manual provide well-organised frameworks with-in which teachers can choose activities that enhance children's appreciation of the novels. Six well-loved children's authors portray the unfolding relationships, conflicts and dilemmas of characters growing up in wide-ranging times, places and settings. The novels provide a challenging read for able pupils, and activities in the teachers' resource book offer ideas for making them accessible for the less able.

Topics could be used in a variety of ways and would enhance and colour environmental studies projects, while educating children to become critical and discerning readers. Introductions to the second set of studies emphasise that the story and literary richness of the novels should always remain the focus of the studies.

Teachers, using knowledge of their own classes, will find it helpful to customise their path through the studies, selecting activities that propel young readers briskly forward through the novel, ensuring that momentum and the enthusiasm for a cracking read are never lost.

The six topic studies fall into two distinctly different formats. The first set (Sula, Flash the Sheepdog, and Quest for a Kelpie) are divided into units based on key passages of text from the novels. Actual texts feature in the teachers' manual but they are not photocopiable. As in the second set, key passages are developed through discussion points, . and ideas for art, design and writing elaborate upon and support the writer's craft.

Each of the second set of titles (A Pistol in Greenyards, Robbie and The Six Lives of Fankle the Cat) features an introduction which analyses the novels, presents a rationale for their use as dynamic teaching texts and summarises the lives of the authors.

The style of these introductio ns is characterised by an obvious love and appreciation for these gems of Scottish literature. There are also lists of comprehensive resources to support and enhance the novel studies and clear advice on how to use them.

Busy teachers, scanning these introductions will swiftly decide the suitability of each topic study for their particular classes and teaching purposes.

These novels are divided into manageable units of study and each unit is elaborated on a double page spread with a summary of the story, main teaching points and classroom activities, usefully organised under curricular headings. The final unit in these three studies features an evaluation and review section.

A Points to Note section at the beginning of each unit offers information on the interpretation of text as well as information for teachers unfamiliar with the history, geography and culture in which the stories unfold. There is a possibility that these sections may make the exceptional novels with their universal themes accessible to teachers and children outside Scotland.

Gill Friel is headteacher of Fintry Primary School, Glasgow

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