CRACKING GOOD BOOKS (Teaching Literature at Key Stage 2). By Judith Graham. NATE Members pound;14.50. Non-members pound;26.50. From National Association for the Teaching of English, 5O Broadfield Road, Sheffield S8 OXJ
Like the lovely punning title, these 24 books are cracking, and like all experiences worth having they must be understood, made one's own - cracked.
A key quotation in the introduction comes from HM Inspectors in 1990: though by Year 6 three-quarters of children were reading widely, the majority "was not being challenged to develop advanced reading skills". How much better is the proportion now? Sadly, with some shining exceptions such as this, there are still few materials available developing response to extended texts.
The 24 books here are ranged in tentative order from Years 3 to 6. Most are British - Philip Pullman, Berlie Doherty, Dick King-Smith, Michael Morpurgo, for example. Most are contemporary, except E Nesbit and three narrative poems - "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in Selina Hastings's retellings, "The Highwayman" and "The Pied Piper".
The invaluable teacher pages are succeeded by double-page spreads for each book. On the left, the terms used are illustrated for the teacher - genre, voice, character, setting, language, structure and authorillustrator - and the pupil activities and assessment are explained. On the right are the activities themselves, inviting pupils to share in the narrative and respond in avariety of imaginative modes.
Recently, there have been a few publications using similar approaches for key stage 2:however, this is so far the most comprehensive and wide-ranging in one volume. Neither a "short cut" nor a "manual for teachers", it sets out to stimulate thought in teachers about these and other books as well as enabling children to become critical readers.