23rd June 2000 at 01:00
SECONDARY. PREMIER READERS SERIES. Various titles: Teen, Plays, Thrillers, Sport

Available individually at pound;3.75 each or in packs of four books pound;14 each

TEACHER'S RESOURCE FILE 1. pound;24.95 + VAT. Nelson Thornes

According to the Draft Framework for Teaching English in Years 7 to 9, "by the end of Year 9, we expect each pupil to be a shrewd and fluent independent reader". A worthy aim, but there are some obstacles to be overcome before it can be realised.

Not the least of these is the bringing together of two separate aspects of literacy - the ability to decode texts with confidence and enjoyment; and the ability to read with sufficient fluency to allow a look beyond and below the words. Often, of course, students, particularly those working at or just below Level 4, have a greater sense of how a text is working than they have the language skills needed to express this insight.

The Nelson Premier Readers series is aimed at helping those students who have difficulty in reading. It provides them with manageable texts, well presented, and with storylies tailored to their chronological rather than reading age.

The books are divided into four genres - sport, thrillers, teen fiction and plays - and are accompanied by a teacher's file of photocopiable resources.

The Resource File has some useful activities well tailored to boost confidence and develop language skills. The problem lies with the books themselves - designed to be read at one sitting, they have sacrificed description and characterisation to brevity, so the plots appear stark and arbitrary. This is less of a drawback with the sports titles than with the others, as the genre depends more on a straightforward action sequence, but it is a major difficulty with the thrillers and teen fiction, which too often have little atmosphere and less logic in their development.

So while the books might be useful as reading exercises, they do little to help students develop the literacy skills that will enable them to become "shrewd and independent readers" - or even to give them a sense that reading might be a worthwhile and pleasurable activity.

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