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Reading recipes

LOOKING AT LITERACY: USING IMAGES OF LITERACY TO EXPLORE THE WORLD OF READING AND WRITING By Nigel Hall and Anne Robinson David Fulton Pounds 9.99. - 1 85346 378 7

Looking at Literacy has a rather strange status. In part this results from the way it mixes historical elements with teaching suggestions. Other aspects include its deliberately limited territory and frame of reference. In discussing a dog which learns to read but doesn't know how he's done it, the writers remark, "Who does?" It seems that for them the processes are not to be inquired into, and that real life learning is as magical as the dog's learning.

Their emphasis falls on such things as the functions of literacy, knowledge about print and environmental print, and in this publication, even more restrictedly, on the ways they are represented in pictures and stories.

Looking at Literacy, then, is devoted to a small corner of the enterprise of learning to read. And by and large the images it is concerned with are only accessible to those who have already begun to read. The aim is to help teachers help children to understand the nature and purposes of literacy by reflecting on the ways reading and writing feature within the stories they read. The writers indicate issues and teaching possibilities in brief discussions of a great range of children's literature.

The extensive booklist at the end should make it possible for teachers to locate exploitable stories easily, but more importantly, the suggestiveness of the writers' approach should en-able teachers to discover new possibilities in books already familiar to them. The brief anecdotal references to ways certain books have been used are stimulating and spark off further ideas.

This short book is driven by the writers' enthusiasm and their belief that it is important for children to learn to reflect and speculate on the nature of the literacy they are gaining. I began reading it feeling that it was intriguing but rather recherche, and finished it feeling that yes, I'd like to try that out . . . If on average we only ever use one recipe from each recipe book we possess, this title, in its small corner, could be unusually rewarding.

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