Any parent who has supported a child through the Oxford Reading Tree scheme will know how much the Magic Key stories are a spur to greater reading fluency.
Children are often determined to make their way through the earliest stages of the scheme as quickly as they can, eager to enter the world of the Magic Key that older pupils enjoy and talk about.
The adventures of Biff, Chip, Kipper, Floppy their dog and friends, the result of an inspired and long-term partnership between writer Roderick Hunt and illustrator Alex Brychta, have captured the imaginations of emergent readers to an extent unparalleled with other schemes. They have also appealed to parents and teachers. The 230 bite-sized stories available through the Reading Tree, reflections of day-to-day life combined with funny and attention-grabbing adventures, are full of hidden jokes, often visual and rich in an irony that adults can appreciate.
Now children will be able to enjoy Magic Key stories on the television, and buy Magic Key products - from dot-to-dot and puzzle books to pyjamas. The Magic Key has been launched as a BBC TV series, a first in the history of chilren's literacy.
About 75 per cent of primary schools use the Reading Tree and its popularity had not gone unnoticed. HIT Entertainment, associated with popular rather than educational programmes, spotted the potential for mass TV viewing in the Magic Key stories. The company teamed up with the BBC and Oxford University Press, which publishes the Reading Tree, to produce 26 programmes, all new Magic Key adventures, which are being shown on BBC 2 Schools from September 25.
The programmes, which are 14-minutes long, follow the guidelines of the National Literacy Strategy, each incorporating a learning objective. An introduction, reinforcement and wrap-up slot accompanies every seven-minute adventure.
The OUP has produced three Magic Key Copymaster books (pound;20 each for books 1 and 2, pound;15 for book 3) which consolidate the NLS learning objectives covered in the programmes, to accompany each term. Six TV tie-in Magic Key storybook titles and six activity books (each costing pound;2.99 each) are also available.
The Magic Key series is being broadcast Mondays 9.30 to 9.45 and repeated Fridays 9.30 to 9.45 on BBC 2 Schools.