Tasty tales from Wales
Key stage 1 teachers in Wales seeking specifically Welsh material for their history classes will welcome this bright and colourful series by John Evans, the advisory support officer for history for Powys Local Education Authority. Furthermore, television and radio programmes to complement the series will be broadcast this autumn.
After years on a starvation diet of a handful of suitable infant stories focusing on such notables as St David and Henry Morgan the buccaneer, and being tempted to sample the Anglo-centric fare offered by the Ginn and BBC Famous People series, this is good news indeed.
Ten personalities have been selected to feature in this series and the author has tried to ensure a fair cross-section of Welsh heroes and heroines. There are six men and four women. Seven are "famous" figures and three are representational historical characters, whose experiences mirror the lives of their contemporaries. There is a wide variety of occupations, including warrior-princes, a Welsh Florence Nightingale and a lowly pit girl.
Some of the topics chosen, for example William Morgan's heroic efforts to translate the Welsh Bible, might seem too difficult for infants, but Evans knows how to exploit a storyline and whet the appetite for more.
Rather unexpectedly, stories that centred on the less well-known characters are most appealing; as in Jane Prichard, Child of the Manor, whose childish nagging for her lost bilbo catcher (a toy) on the very day King Charles I is to visit Llancaiach Manor allows for repetition and a strong sequential follow-up exercise.
Evans is assisted in capturing the spirit of the characters and their times by an able team of illustrators.
But the search for balance has not been wholly successful. None of the characters is located in Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire or Anglesey, and the chronological spread provides a glut of 19th-century subjects, with Laura Ashley (an incongruous, though Powysian, choice) as the sole representative of the 20th century. What about Princess Gwenllian of Deheubarth, O M Edwards or even Gareth Edwards? Perhaps such heroes and heroines can feature in the next series of Welsh history stories - after all, infants have an insatiable appetite for a good tale.
The Teacher's Guide that accompanies the series is exemplary. It identifies the historical content and the key elements to be addressed at each stage. It contains outline lesson plans, suggested activities, photocopiable sheets and background notes on each personality. Teachers will feel comfortable and confident with this invaluable resource.
This whole package, including story books, teacher's guide, videos and cassettes of television and radio programmes (in Welsh and English) should be on the shopping list of every infant school in Wales, and the invitation to taste this enticing feast of Welsh history stories can be cordially extended to schools across the border in England.