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Tiptoeing through minefields

READING FOR PARENTS by Irene Yates MATHS FOR PARENTS by Rosemary Russell Piccadilly Press Pounds 5.99 each The development of early-years reading is a political and educational minefield and few parents can fail to become anxious about their child's progress.

Much has been written in favour of one scheme or another. Protagonists of whole language, look and say or phonics slug it out in newspapers, worrying parents concerned about national curriculum tests and their child's development.

Irene Yates was a primary school teacher for 16 years and is now an educational consultant. Her book Reading for Parents attempts to step through the minefield, looking at different schemes, setting out the ways in which parents can support their children's reading. This practical guide has a sensible range of activities parents can adopt to make learning to read fun. It gives a cool, lucid explanation of a raging argument.

While the country has engaged in endless navel-gazing over literacy, innumeracy - a more deep-seated, national failing - is now moving into the spotlight. It may be harder to tackle because of the helplessness many adults feel after dropping maths and returning to it when their children need help.

Rosemary Russell's Maths for Parents gives excellent support to parents defeated by modern teaching methods and national curriculum demands.

It dissects the arguments of those who believe maths is all about rote-learning times tables, and of those who prefer exploratory projects to promote understanding.

It looks at the basics of understanding multiplication, subtraction and long division, and sets out the many ways in which parents can engage children in mathematical thinking.

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