PAL pulls its weight;Reviews;Books;Personal, social and health education

16th April 1999 at 01:00
Kevin Harcombe finds a series ofclear-sighted books on weighty social issues WHAT DO WE THINK ABOUT...SERIES. Adoption. Alcohol. Bullying. Death. Disability. Drugs.Family Break-Up. Our Environment. Wayland pound;8.99 - pound;9.99 each. LIVING WITH...SERIES. Asthma. Blindness. Cerebral Palsy. Deafness. Diabetes. Down's syndrome. Epilepsy. Leukaemia. Wayland pound;9.99 each.

THINK ABOUT...SERIES. Having a Learning Disability. Being Blind. Being Deaf.Being in a Wheelchair. Belitha Press pound;8.99 each.

PSHE, together with other smaller sensitive subjects, has seen the big boys Literacy and Numeracy ruling the playground of late. But with the help of senior prefect Estelle Morris and the curriculum review, it's fighting back.

Estelle has suggested to Sir that teaming PSHE with citizenship, and spiritual, moral, social and cultural edcuation under the umbrella title Preparation for Adult Life (PAL) will help them stand up to those intimidating attention-seekers. The following resources will help out.

The What Do We Think About... series for six- to eight-year-olds deals with issues like death, bullying and family break-up in a clear, uncluttered style. The books are attractive, well designed and superbly illustrated with colour photographs complementing the concise, uncomplicated text.

Each volume has a glossary, index, bibliography, contact addresses, and suggestions for adults on using the book. (The publishers have also promoted the books as being ideal for literacy - naturally.) What Do We Think About Death by Karen Bryant-Mole exemplifies the virtues of this excellent series in putting over complex issues in a way that is simple but never simplistic: "Death comes at the end of every life. We are born, we live our lives and then we die." This no-nonsense approach does not ignore the tremendous emotions stirred up by death - sadness, loss and anger are all touched on. We are told: "Getting over a death doesn't mean forgetting ... you may be able to remember all the good times you had together." In this context the specially commissioned photographs (a boy playing with his dog, a girl making sandcastles with her grandfather) become moving and uplifting.

The same publisher's Living With... books are aimed at slightly older readers and based round real lives. Living With Blindness, for example, follows Mathar, 10, Lucy ,15, and Katie, grown up with adult children, going about their lives. The tone is positive but not rose-tinted. Readers are shown through text and photographs how these people manage their blindness. Myths and preconceptions are dealt with sensitively, firmly and often scientifically.

The Think About series suffers from worthy but dull covers, a shame because the content is good with well-written texts by authors who either have the disability themselves or, in the case of Having a Learning Disability, is co-written by a brothersister team, one of whom has a learning disability. Aimed at the 8-11 range, the books look at disabled people being successful, both in meeting the challenges of everyday life and excelling in other areas. Famous and not-so-famous role models are on display.

The tone is upbeat without glossing over the obstacles society presents for disabled people. The illustrations complement the text and "Think About" boxes encourage readers to reflecton the issues and their own attitudes.

Kevin Harcombe is head of Orchard Lea junior school, Fareham

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