A to Y of reading

7th July 1995 at 01:00
READING IN THE EARLY YEARS HANDBOOK by Robin Campbell Open University Press Pounds 12.99. 0 335 19309 9

At first sight this book seems a rather strange conception. It is a kind of A to Z (well, A to Y) of topics associated with reading in the early years. Such a selection seems bound to be arbitrary and to provoke a whole series of arguments about whether the right topics have been included. Nevertheless, within the areas it covers, the book works surprisingly well. It has wide scope and the sections are handled with integrity and clarity.

There are 70 headings ranging from "apprenticeship approach" to "your classroom" including categories such as: "Breakthrough to literacy"; "Discussions"; "Formula for beginning reading"; "Left-to-right directionality"; "Organic vocabulary" and "Whole Language". Each section contains a brief but thorough discussion followed by annotated suggestions for further reading.

These references, one of the book's strongest features, are mostly up-to-date and those that are not have been included because of their importance for understanding a topic. A student or beginning teacher would find they add up to a very interesting, compact, yet comprehensive reading list. The book is usefully cross-referenced, and some sections end with an "in the classroom" piece with examples and analysis.

No two readers will agree about the selection of topics. My main reservation is that virtually all the selections are procedural; there is very little about the nature of what children might actually read. It creeps in under the headings "environmental print" and "classroom print", but for the most part even sections like "big books", "library corner" and "nursery rhymes" deal with principles of use rather than the content of what is read. There is no section called "children's literature" and no section dealing with children's responses to the content of books. Even the section headed "real books" is practical rather than literary in its approach. A whole domain of literacy seems to be missing.

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