Ancient arts and Welsh winners

5th December 2003 at 00:00
READING ABOUT SERIES: Ancient Greeks. By Jim Pipe. Vikings; Ancient Egyptians; Ancient Romans. By David Jay. Franklin Watts pound;3.99 each

KEY STAGE 2 WELSH HISTORY STORIES: A Trip to the Seaside; Rachel's Washday; OM Edwards and the Welsh Not; Shirley Bassey; Tadia's Family in Roman Isca; John Davids and the Plague; Erndigg: the Servant's Day; The Rebecca's Riots; The Penrhyn Lockout; Tommy Barrow: an Evacuee in Wales; Ivor England: a Miner's Life. By John Evans. Dref Wen pound;3 each; big books pound;14.99 each

Fiona Lafferty looks at two series which combine history with literacy

The Reading About series is noted for its lively and well-organised presentation of non-fiction subjects in a narrative format. The layout is instantly accessible, with a good-sized typeface interspersed with artwork, photographs and maps. The text is written in carefully controlled vocabulary in short paragraphs with additional information in captions to pictures.

These titles are aimed at newly fluent readers at key stage 2 and look at the ancient civilisations of the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Vikings.

Manageable chapters include all the common aspects of life in each civilisation that you would expect, as well as elements specific to each people. For example, Ancient Greeks covers the land and its people, homes, schools, clothes, food, city life, travel and trade, rulers, thinkers, gods and the Olympics, whereas Vikings focuses on exploration and warfare.

Each book has a guide to pronunciation of unfamiliar words, along with a glossary and a simple index. A quiz at the end tests comprehension.

The nature of the subjects makes this series particularly appealing to boys. It is an excellent investment in sets for guided reading or extended reading beyond schemes.

The Key Stage 2 Welsh history stories follow the earlier set of KS1 titles from Dref Wen in a well-produced series of short books. These latest 12 titles span the age range from Reception to Year 6. Although there is nothing on the jackets to indicate the level at which each is aimed, the type size and length of text gives an indication of its target audience.

Of all the titles, the two for Reception - Rachel's Washday and A Trip to the Seaside - are the most general and could have been set anywhere in the British Isles. Curiously, though, for history stories, neither places its subject in a specific time, so the only clues to date are how people are dressed in the pictures and references to eating Spam sandwiches, for example.

Aimed at Years 1 and 2, OM Edwards and the Welsh Not recounts the punishment meted out to Welsh speakers 150 years ago, and Shirley Bassey tells of the famous singer's humble roots in a large, but poor family in Cardiff.

The four titles for Years 3 and 4 cover Henry Tudor, a Roman family, an account of the Plague in Haverfordwest and life below stairs in a country house in 1912.

Finally, three of the four titles for Years 5 and 6 describe industrial disputes: the Rebecca Riots, the Penrhyn Lockout and the miners' strike of 1984-5. The third is an account of a young boy evacuated to Wales. The series is also published in Welsh.

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