THREE MODERN NOVELS. A video pack by Barbara Bleiman, Sabrina Broadbent, June Levison and Lucy Brett. The English and Media Centre pound;49.95.
A new publication from the award-winning English and Media Centre is usually a cause for celebration.
English departments all over the country have come to rely on its imaginative, but down-to-earth, essentially classroom-friendly resources and knack of responding quickly to fill gaps in stock cupboards caused by curriculum shifts.
With its prophetic sense of changes in the wind for the subject core for English literature, this ring-bound pack has opted, refreshingly, to focus on three relatively new and unexplored texts: Beloved by Toni Morrison, Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane and Reef by Romesh Gunesekera.
Assuming that teachers may choose these as A-level texts, the writers have built in opportunities for students to fulfil both the course work and set text elements of courses.
The texts have been selected for their cultural diversity and unusual narrative styles, allowing for close reading and comparative work with complementary texts as part of a wider reading programme. The authors of the pack work closely with practising teachers and their understanding of what works in the classroom informs all the activities.
Tightly focused, step-by-step tasks for small group work are addressed to the students themselves in clear, accessible language and encourage them to develop the "well informed personal response" sought after by A-level examiners.
At the same time, the approach taken to each text has been designed to reflect its unique narrative structure rather than slavishly follow a common format. This sensitivity to the nature of the text lends the pack a scholarly precision which will give teachers confidence in its integrity as an A-level resource.
Relevant background material, advice on annotation, a skill often taken for granted by those new to A-level teaching, and how to make use of the video-taped interviews with the authors, as well as suggestions for further reading, enable the student to acquire both an overview and in-depth study of the detail of the texts.
It may be a case of putting the proverbial cart before the horse, but I predict, following publication of this pack, that suppliers of books to school will see a sudden upsurge in orders for Beloved, Reading in the Dark and Reef.
Mandy Watts is head of English at Mill Hill County High School, north London