The material facts

10th January 2008 at 00:00

Polly Jezard looks at a range of new titles to help infants explore science

IT'S CATCHING. Warts and Verrucas; Chicken Pox; Head Lice; Colds and Flu; Conjunctivitis. By Angela Royston. Heinemann First Library. Price: pound;8.99 each

MATERIALS. Rubber; Water; Rock; Cotton; Soil. By Chris Oxlade. Heinemann First Library. Price: pound;8.99 each

MATERIAL WORLD. Plastic; Wood; Concrete. By Claire Llewellyn Watts. Price: pound;11.99 each

Most young children - especially boys - love anything that's even slightly grotesque, so the It's Catching books will be right up their street. This imaginative series shows real-life photographs or diagrams of the parts of the body which are affected by a range of common ailments, as well as magnified images showing the bacteria, virus or animal that is the source of the problem.

Each book deals with a different contagious disease or condition, and explains in a simple way what it is, how it spreads and affects the body, and how it can be prevented or cured. It is a good resource to use with lower infants.

A "Think about it" section poses questions such as "What can you do to stop other people catching your cold?" to prompt responses from children, though this could have benefited from being expanded. The books would provide a good starting point for a class discussion on any of the conditions covered - the Head Lice title in particular is likely to create a stir as this is a hot topic in every school.

It's obvious from its title what the Materials series is about: the properties of the materials covered are explored, and the books consider each material to assess whether it is natural or man-made. The series is aimed at lower infants, and the text is easy to read and well presented for this age group. Each title has a handy bullet-point fact-file, and a useful list of additional suggested reading, but the "Would you believe it" section is sadly not as awe-inspiring as it sounds, as it contains just one fact and often a fairly obvious one.

Another publisher, Watts, has produced a more sophisticated rival series on the same subject. The Material World titles are obviously intended for the top end of key stage 1, and they also call for more interaction on the part of the reader, with "Fascinating facts", "Try this" or "Take a look" activities in every section, most of which demand some adult support, but which further add to their value as a class resource.

The more in-depth treatment these titles provide makes them a worthwhile addition to the school's science library and the larger format means they may also find an additional life as part of a class display.

Polly Jezard is science and design technology co-ordinator at King's Court First School, Old Windsor, Berkshire

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