Literacy: reading

7th April 2000 at 01:00
YOUNG READERS AND THEIR BOOKS: suggestions and strategies for using texts in the literacy hour. By Gervase Phinn. David Fulton pound;14. Young Readers and Their Books manages to be interesting, inspirational and of great practical use to anyone concerned with literacy, particularly students and new teachers.

The first part considers how we choose texts, including picture books, story books, novels, poetry and non-fiction, for different primary age groups. The second half shares strategies for helping children respond to their reading. Sounds familiar? Well, yes - many books offer help with choosing and using books in the literacy hour, but few are as inviting as this one, though some readers will warm more than others to the author's essentially personal approach.

The chapters celebrating fiction are stronger than those covering reading for information. The book is light on theory but strong on clear, sensible and often exciting classroom strategies, strongly focused on the author's experience. Gervase Phinn's poems add variety ad Matthew Phinn's drawings often raise a smile. Richly annotated reading lists provide an exhilarating journey through some of the very best children's books.

The author warns that too aggressive an interpretation of the literacy hour requirements - going through texts in "pleasure-destroying detail" - might well turn children off reading. A speculative approach to a wide range of interesting and sometimes challenging texts is encouraged: appreciation comes before "sensitive interrogation" (delightful use of oxymoron here). Poems, too, should be allowed to "breathe" before a fiercer linguistic analysis. Teachers who find teaching poetry a challenge will particularly welcome the wealth of ideas to help children respond, sometimes with their own verses, at key stages 1 and 2.

This useful resource book helps teachers operate within the official frameworks and a dip into it also reinforces the notion of the creative practitioner.

Margaret Mallett is a visiting tutor in primary English at Goldsmithscollege, London

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