Children's books

26th January 2007 at 00:00
Kevin Harcombe looks at guided reading texts for primary pupils, and a series explaining where food comes from

These illustrated short fiction books by established authors take some of the difficulty out of finding and differentiating texts for guided reading.

The Mystery and Adventure stories for Year 3 include (for less able readers) Margaret Ryan's Scratch and Sniff, a tale of doggy detectives with lots of humour and snappy dialogue guaranteed to appeal to the target audience. For average readers, Michaela Morgan's The Thing In The Basement is a typical school-based tale, while Chris Powling's On The Ghost Trail has the necessary characterisation and plot development to appeal to more able readers.

The teachers' guides feature step-by-step "teaching sequences" over five sessions, which less experienced teachers will find useful. Worksheets range from good to indifferent (several including the infuriating instruction "draw a picture").

Stories that Raise Issues for Year 4 are variously about prejudice, bullying and loss. Alan Macdonald's Nothing But Trouble (about a traveller boy starting at a new school) is written with both warmth and grit. J Alexander's Finding Fizz deals sensitively with the story of girls excluding and teasing one of their own; some well-chosen humour stops it becoming a gloom-fest. Particularly good is Julia Green's Taking Flight, about a boy's relationship with his ailing grandad.

Again, the worksheets are of variable quality, but the suggested drama techniques will help bring the texts alive.

White Wolves story books

By various authors

AC Black pound;4.99 each

White Wolves teachers' guides

By Karina Law

AC Black pound;15.99 each

For six to eight-year-olds

Thanks to the "Jamie Oliver effect" and continued alarm over childhood obesity, what children eat is very much a hot potato. In this series, information is served on a bed of brightly-coloured pages, garnished with a mouth-watering compote of photos and drawings, with facts and ideas presented in tasty, bite-size chunks.

The books explain where our food comes from (children do not routinely link the over-packaged lamb chop in the supermarket fridge with the cute, woolly animal bleating in a muddy field) and how it is made into the forms in which we eat it.

The author's approach is admirably straightforward and well suited to key stage 2: the section on how sausages are made does not dip into unpalatable issues of recovered meat slurry; information about how chickens and fish are farmed is provided without judgment.

Healthier alternatives are on the menu throughout but rather than preaching, the books savour the pleasures of food and provide clear and unbiased information so that children can make their own choices

Kevin Harcombe is headteacher of Redlands Primary, Fareham, Hampshire

What's For Lunch? series: Dairy, Bread, Meat and Fish, Fruit, Vegetables

By Honor Head

QED pound;11.99

For nine to 11-year-olds

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