A boost for reluctant readers;Books

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
JUMPSTART READING SCHEME. Series editor: Sue Graves Illustrated by Kim Blundell. Collins Tel: 0870 0100 442. WILDCATS. Series editor: Sandra Iversen. Kingscourt Tel: 0800 317457. WOLF HILL. By Roderick Hunt. Illustrated by Alex Brychta. Oxford Tel: 01865 267881.

Gill Jelley looks at new series aimed at overcoming literacy problems

Jumpstart is designed for children from six to nine who have difficulties with reading and spelling. It is a well-structured scheme with a strong phonic base, organised in three stages, each with three sets of books. There are exciting and humorous stories, a poetry book for each stage and an interesting selection of non-fiction, such as books on nature, outer space and cooking.

A teachers' resource book suggests various activities encouraging children to recognise word families, predict outcomes, give opinions, discuss characters and settings, and refer to contents pages, glossaries and indexes. There are associated work books and activity masters, and teachers' notes with ideas about targets and strategies. User-friendly diagnostic tests can contribute to a reading profile. There is also an introductory Big Book, and an activity Big Book.

Recent research shows that intervening early with young readers who are struggling can produce good results. Jumpstart aims to stimulate and motivate reluctant readers, particularly boys. The children in our school had to be dragged away from the books. They should prove very useful.

Wildcats is a very attractive new series that aims to provide children with reading ages between six and nine with books that will fit the interests of eight to 11 or 12 year olds. The four levels - Lions, Tigers, Bobcats and Leopards - offer an extensive variety of genres, authors, illustrators, brilliant photographs and writing styles.

There are stories from real and imaginary situations, myths, and interesting non-fiction. The books are beautifully produced. Children with real "learning to read" difficulties need more structured texts (though the Wildcats would be good for guided and shared reading and general motivation), but those up to 12 months or so behind would get a lot out of them. My colleagues thought they were glossy and exciting books, rather expensive if used as suggested for guided reading when six or eight copies of a title would be needed, but good for individual reading.

Wildcats Adventure Journal has unusually creative photocopiable material linked to the books, offering activities to practice reading and spelling new vocabulary and promote comprehension and higher- order thinking skills.

The families living in and around Wolf Hill have already struck a chord with young readers. This series is billed as a "lifeline for reluctant readers" in key stage 2. It does indeed grab many of them, providing stimulating, but carefully graded, reading material.

The children in Year 6 of Wolf Hill Primary school have their ups and downs, and social issues are sensitively dealt with. The stories have good character development, plot, and lots of humour that key stage 2 children easily relate to. Level 3 came out recently; levels 4 and 5 will appear in April next year.

The short chapters are good to read in a group or within the literacy hour. Cliff-hanger endings provide useful chances for group discussion, promoting prediction and comprehension. The Teachers Guides (one for Level 3 will be available in September 1999) attempt to map Wolf Hill to the National Literacy Strategy Framework, offering suggestions for shared and guided reading and writing and discussion topics. The guide also contains useful photocopiable materials.

Gill Jelley is the special educational needs co-ordinator at Moseley Primary School, Coventry

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