Power of literature;Cross-phase;Reviews;General;Books

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
LITERATURE FOR ALL. By Nicola Grove. David Fulton pound;14. READING FOR ALL. By Sylvia Edwards. David Fulton pound;12.

Teachers of pupils with moderate, severe or profound learning difficulties can use the power of literature to develop "imagination, empathy, engagement and self-expression". This is the passionate message of Nicola Grove in Literature for All, a new publication in the Curriculum for All series.

She believes that rather than being too "difficult" for these students, literature provides a key context for sharing experiences - both emotional and social - through narrative. "Helping students to understand the progress of their own lives" is how she describes the effect of working in this way.

Although written mainly for teachers working with secondary students with special needs, the book should also be of interest to teachers working within the primary range. It offers numerous insights, interspersed with snapshots of students' responses and many classroom examples based on texts: Macbeth, Gulliver's Travels, The Hound of the Baskervilles and a range of poetry. Grove feels strongly that texts should be age-appropriate and made accessible through drama, film, video and a range of techniques such as the use of symbols, concept keyboards, drawing, story mapping and storyboarding. There are helpful recommendations for working with groups of students including those with difficulties within the autistic spectrum and with deafness and dual sensory impairments.

Reading for All by Sylvia Edwards addresses the issue of low attainment in reading for pupils with special needs in mainstream primary classrooms. There is a useful overview of three major planks of government education policy - the Green Paper Excellence for All - Meeting Special Educational Needs, the SEN code of practice and the national literacy strategy - and strat-egies to assist teachers who are trying to balance all of these in the classroom. The book offers guidance at many levels, with particular emphasis on the literacy hour.

I would like to have seen more on how to inspire children who know they are failing. As Nicola Grove so convincingly shows, high-quality texts and activities that bring them to life, such as drama, role-play and writing, can play a key role in promoting literacy achievement for all.

Olivia O'Sullivan is assistant director of The Centre for Language in Primary Education, south-east London

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