With learning increasingly seen as a home-school partnership, the market in homework materials and educational magazines is livening up. Are we seeing the first signs of a development that is taking us closer to a state of affairs that has existed in parts of Europe for decades?
French newsagents, for example, offer an amazing variety and quality of children's educational magazines. Titles include Pomme d'Api and Les belles histoires for three to seven-year-olds, Astrapi for seven to 11-year-olds and Maximum (an adventure magazine) for nine to 13-year-olds. Most surprisingly, there are magazines for the 10 to 15-year-old age range - Je Bouquine, which presents the work of contemporary children's writers and gives information about classic authors, and the general-interest current affairs title Okapi, for instance.
Children who have reached secondary age without developing a habit of reading this type of publication would need a lot of persuading to pick up the likes of Je Bouquine, but pre-school and primary children might well take to one of the English language titles available from Bayard Presse (the publisher responsible for the magazines mentioned here), available on subscription from the Children's Magazine Company.
Each issue of Storybox (for three to six-year-olds) includes a stand-alone picture book-style story plus an instalment of "The Adventures of Charlotte and Henry", by Bob Graham, and a middle section that can include a Factfile, Observation Games, and Making Things pages. Adventure Box (for six to nine-year-olds) is described as "a gripping chapter book with added facts and fun".
The November issue's six-chapter story is "SpookyNight", about a confrontation with card-playing skeletons. The fun section includes science experiments on forces, an explanation of why bats hibernate and a bloodcurdling word search. And the closing comic strip, Tom and Lili, is given a suitably spooky theme.
Discovery Box (for eight to 12-year-olds) has just been given a new format. This general interest, cross-curricular magazine is glossily produced to a high visual standard and would be a useful addition to any junior school library. There is a good mix of photos, artwork and comic strip.
Available from some newsagents and supermarkets but also on subscription is a range of BBC magazines for key stage 1. Tell Me Why promises to "help your child work through the foundation curriculum used in nursery and reception classes" and is designed to be used with a parent. Learning Is Fun is the equivalent for the KS1 curriculum.
This month there are two new titles, Number Time and The Magic Key - large-format, colourful magazines that teachers can recommend to parents with confidence when asked what could be done at home to support the child's literacy or numeracy. Parents are certainly better advised to try these titles than any of the dry-as-dust homework materials they might otherwise be considering.
Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex.Storybox and Adventure Box pound;34.75 for 10 issues, Discovery Box pound;27.60 for 10 issues from the Children's Magazine Company, Tower House, Sovereign Park, Lathkill Street, Market Harborough LE16 SEF. Tel: 01858 435319The Magic Key and Number Time pound;1.75 each, subscriptions pound;17.50 for 10 issues (tel: 01795 414723)