25th May 2001 at 01:00
SCIENCE WEB READERS: biology, chemistry, physics. Edited by Joan Solomon. Nelson. pound;4.50 each. Available from TES Direct.

Teachers keen to improve literacy through science sometimes struggle to find accessible extended narrative-based text. These books meet this need and represent the "new departure for science education" that the blurb promises.

Each book contains about 20 reading passages of three or four pages, superbly illustrated. Human interest is well to the fore. There are gory bits ("the man with a lid on his stomach"; allergic reactions to body piercing), disaster (Apollo 13) and hi-tech (life on Mars). Science fiction appears with anti-gravity mats. Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees is there, and tales of 18th-century "microscope parties" at which proud owners invited friends to peer through their instruments. Historical ideas and the latest developents are covered.

The reading level has not been dumbed down, but relies on interesting content and narrative power to carry readers through. Good use is made of the "wow" factor, and of different writing styles, including stories, diaries and debates. Articles are informative and entertaining, informal but not patronising. Having read the lot at one sitting, I was using a story in a lesson the next day.

A few questions accompany each article, ranging from simple comprehension to those that require written summaries, further reading, calculations or experiments.

With subject matter targeted at 11 to 13-year-olds, these books could be used for class literacy work or private reading. They will nurture science enthusiasts and enjoyment in reading about science.

Lynne Marjoram teaches science at St Catherine's R C school for girls, Bexley, Kent

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