Support the tadpole watchers

16th May 1997 at 01:00
Never Too Young. By Judy Miller. The National Early Years NetworkSave the Children. Pounds 10

Infant Classroom Behaviour. By Sue Roffey and Terry O'Reirdan. David Fulton, Pounds 12.99

Supporting Numeracy. By Rita Headington. David Fulton, Pounds 12.99

Annabelle Dixon looks at books to help teachers of young children

Last Thursday, Gary discovered the tadpoles. You do this when you're not quite five by putting both hands in their container and throwing the water, tadpoles and weed up in the air. Then you swish it about as it falls back into the bowl.

A myriad other events and minor crises were also happening of course, and I recalled them as I read Supporting Numeracy and Infant Classroom Behaviour, which in their different ways purport to assist hard-pressed infant teachers and their assistants.

Never Too Young by Judy Miller doesn't set out with that ambition, but in the event, it has just as much to offer. It is very practical and is designed to be used by people who are coming to accept the idea that many benefits, including increased feelings of self-worth, accrue from giving children greater opportunities to take on responsibility and make decisions for themselves. It is exciting and heartening as well as achievable.

The importance of young children's sense of self-worth is also emphasised by Sue Roffey and Terry O'Reirdan in Infant Classroom Behaviour. The explicit message of these books is that unless children have attained at least some degree of self-worth, the management problems of any early years class will be very time consuming.

It is also true that some children who may be difficult in their early days at school, as Roffey and O'Reirdan point out, simply haven't had the chance to learn certain social skills.

It is helpful observations like this that characterise Infant Classroom Behaviour; a thoughtfully written book which meets a need. It would be of particular help to teachers who are untrained for the age group (nearly 70 per cent of practising infant teachers) and those whose PGCE training left many gaps. There are useful checklists and the tone throughout is supportive and practical.

Sadly, the way in which the greyish photographs have been inserted into the text is no credit to the usually high standards of British publishing.

Supporting Numeracy by Rita Headington unhesitatingly faces the demands of the national curriculum. It is addressed principally to classroom and specialist teachers' assistants and is a confident, book which will help those uncertain about their own skills in numeracy. It presumes a fair degree of background knowledge and at times the style is inaccessible.

Supporting Numeracy is designed as a handbook which has numerous practical suggestions and activities. The layout is dense, with illustrations that are competent, but somehow lack the excitement the author clearly feels for her subject. It would undoubtedly help those supporting children who show no particular problems with learning.

Annabelle Dixon is deputy head of Holdbrook JMI School, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire

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