When one child helps another to read, both benefit; the pupil-learner discovers how reading goes, the pupil-teacher has to know what he or she knows about reading in order to explain it. The real teacher discovers where they both will go next." (Margaret Meek, Language and Learning, 1991) The promise of creating "reading partnerships" between pairs and groups of children sounds exciting and a group of teachers led by Diana Bentley and Dee Reid work hard to fulfil that promise. The idea itself, of course, is far from new. Research by Gardner and Lunzer in The Effective Use of Reading back in 1979 showed the cognitive, social and linguistic advantages when children work in groups using techniques such as cloze, sequencing and prediction to make sense of texts. Teachers also know of the advantages of "paired reading" (usually between care-giver and child) as documented in Topping and Wolfendale's Parental Involvement in Children's Reading (1985). These materials provide teachers with a solid yet imaginative core of literature-based work for a daily classroom reading programme.
The Red and Blue sets are part of six Literacy Centre boxes which also include Fiction 7-9 and 9-11 and Information Books 7-9 and 9-11. All the books in the boxes are popular with children inside and outside school. The authors of the packs set each book in a framework of speaking, listening and reading comprehension activities and provide a detailed guide for record-keeping and teacher-assessment.
The Get Reading sets are designed especially to motivate and support inexperienced and reluctant readers in the junior age-group. The Red Set (for ages 7-9) has 24 pupils' books (2 copies of each title which include Rose Impey's Too Many Babies, Pat Thomson's Rhyming Russell, Jan Mark's The Snow Maze and so on). The Blue Set (for ages 9-11) includes poetry by John Foster, Animal Quizbook by Paul Dowswell and the Usborne Book of Children's Classics.
Numerous activities for pairs and groups of children, anthologies of related texts and poems and outlines for assessment and record-keeping are all provided on photocopiable pages. Two audio-tapes, offer a selection of readings from the anthologies and chapters from specific books and the other an unabridged reading of one text.
Each book begins by giving general information on the author, summarising classroom management for work around the text and relating different activities to particular types of assessment. Then follow Before Reading activities for a pair of children. The 11 After Reading activities include imaginative ideas such as character profiling and discussing how to deal with bullying.
All the tasks are excellent in promoting discussion as well as a careful reflection on the meanings of words. They will be very useful for young bilingual children working beside monolingual English-speaking peers.