Helping words fall into place

3rd March 1995 at 00:00
TES reviewers look at the latest stages of two established reading schemes. The early stages of the new reading programmes have generally been well received in schools. The materials seem to be catering for teachers of a variety of methodological persuasions. The latest arrivals from All Aboard include Non-fiction Stages 3-5, Demonstration books Stages 3-5 and Fiction Stages 6-8.

There are six books at each of the three non-fiction stages. These cover a wide variety of subjects including guinea-pigs, "The Feast" and "The Workshop" at stage 3; hiccups and burps, road signs and making masks at stage 4; and wearing glasses, roller coaster and racing pigeons at stage 5.

The books form an alternative or supplement to fiction for children learning to read. Sentences are short and generally in the active voice. The earliest books have one sentence per page and the later ones two. Each book contains extensive visual information to provide the context for reading. Some books also make use of repetition, others illustrate most of the less familiar vocabulary (nouns or verbs) by interspersing the words in a sentence with explanatory pictures. On the whole the text is natural, if economical. All these factors allow the books to be read by young children with some adult help.

However, it would be a pity if these books were just used as "readers". They invite an enquiring and discursive approach and need to be pored over and discussed at length. The pictures are also a wealth of information. Unusually for this age-range, these books contain information which the child may not already know. Some also provoke further enquiry.

The books may also be used to make the various functions of text and the way it is organised and presented explicit to children. They have clear contents pages, headings and indexes; some have an introduction, and some have a concluding page. Good photographs, including some close-ups, are used to bring unfamiliar images and processes to the reader. Pictures, charts, diagrams, labels, maps, insets, cutaways and keys are used as appropriate. "Eating plants" is reproduced as a large format "Demonstration" book to enable the teacher to explain some features of non-fiction books to children.

The fiction books in stages 6-8, written by Julie Jarman and Margaret Nash, and illustrated by Julie Park, continue the stories about Sam, Rosie, their families and friends. There are four books at each stage, all the same size and orientation, and the stages are colour-coded. The books in stage 6 of the Sam and Rosie series have 24 pages, the later two stages, 32 pages. The stage 8 books are organised into chapters. Throughout the stages, each sentence starts on a new line. Many of the criticisms of former reading schemes have been given consideration: families from different ethnic origins are central to the stories, the portrayal of grandparents has been brought up to date, environmental and social issues are covered. The characters develop through the books, and some would provoke discussion.

The series of Pattern and Rhyme books is also extended into stages 6-8, four at each stage, Again, these are all the same size and orientation but variety is achieved by the wide differences in style of the illustrations, many of which are amusing, and it is a pity the books are not larger.

The books include stories, traditional tales, poems and a play and the use of rhyme, rhythm, repetition and humour abound. Some books will become firm favourites. Even if a school is not embarking on a new reading programme, most in the Pattern and Rhyme series would enhance the shelves of any infant classroom.

All Aboard. Stages 3 to 5 Non fiction. Packs of six books Pounds 11.99 each pack Stage 3. 602 25798 0

Stage 4. 602 25803 0

Stage 5. 602 25807 3

Stage 3 to 5 Demonstration books. Packs of three books Pounds 34.90 per pack.

602 26248 8 or single books Pounds 11 95

Sam and Rosie - A Book for Jack, 602 26478 2

Pattern and Rhyme - I Fell out of Bed 602 26479 0

Non fiction - Eating Plants, 602 26480 4

Stages 6 to 8.Packs of four books

Stage 6: Sam and Rosie Stories

Pounds 6 602 26362 X

Pattern and Rhyme, Pounds 6 602 2513 8

Stage 7: Sam and Rosie Stories

Pounds 7 602 26363 8.

Pattern and Rhyme Stories, Pounds 6 602 25817 0

Stage 8: Packs of four books.

Sam and Rosie Stories.

Pounds 7 602 26364 6, Pattern and Rhyme Stories.

Pounds 6 602 25821 9 Ginn.

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