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they matter: Pirates and princesses

Equally successful is Usborne’s ‘Young Reading’ series. Like the ‘White Wolves’, there are many traditional tales here that are likely to be new to you and your child but, because they include the predictable structure and characteristics of traditional stories, they offer the compass the child needs. First rate illustrators combine with child-friendly content. In addition to traditional tales, you will also find other stories in this well designed series to satisfy every child’s interests: there are pirates, princesses, dinosaurs, football... Robust, unpatronising plots are powered by illustrations that frequently add additional detail to the story.

On the subject of pirates and princesses, Orion Children’s Books publish a series of early readers about jolly threesomes: The Three Little Princesses, The Three Little Pirates and The Three Little Witches. Emily Bolam’s charming cartoon- like illustrations are full of enlivening detail and the annotated maps at the beginning of each book are a bonus.

How you can help

Whilst many children will happily embark on reading ‘early readers’ titles independently, some may need your help. Getting going can be tricky, particularly if the child is on unfamiliar ground as with Half as Big (in the ‘White Wolves’ series). You could try reading the first chapter to your child or maybe suggest that you take it in turns to read a page or a chapter. You could take over from your child if you feel s/he is flagging.

What to do if your child gets a word wrong or gets stuck on a word

If your child reads a word incorrectly, ask yourself whether the mistake matters or not. For instance, if, instead of ‘Mum marched into the room and switched off the TV’, your child reads ‘Mum marched into the room and turned off the TV’, there is really no need to worry as the meaning is still clear. If, on the other hand, s/he reads that Mum ‘swerved off the TV’ you will know that the meaning has been lost and you may decide to ask the child whether what s/he’s read makes sense or not. Sometimes children become so absorbed in trying to decode an unfamiliar word that they lose sight of the fact that text makes sense. I often describe this as helping children to have their ‘meaning antennae’ out at all times.

It’s also worth having a quick look through a book before your child starts to read so that you can anticipate any vocabulary that might be challenging. In Half as Big for instance, the chick’s name is ‘Medio Pollito’ – hardly a familiar name – so you could tell the child the name and find it in the book before s/he begins to read.

If a child gets stuck on a word, there are lots of ways to help. You could just tell her/him the word so as not to interfere

enjoy books and reading Books for Keeps No.188 May 2011 9

with the flow of the story. But you may be pretty sure that it’s a word s/he could read independently so you could suggest s/he tells you what the first sound in the word is and then try to blend the rest. If it’s a word that can’t be decoded like this (‘once’ is a good example – you can’t put the sounds together in this tricky word) ask if s/he has seen the word anywhere else. Other options are to suggest the child reads back to the beginning of the sentence or ahead to the end, so that s/he is using the context of the story to predict what the word might be. And, of course, there are always the pictures to help. The important thing here is to use your judgement and not let a struggle over one word detract from the overall pace and enjoyment of the read.

All these early reading books offer a gateway into the amazing worlds that books can open up to children, so enjoy the wonderful array of early readers for your own early reader! n

Books discussed ‘Chameleons’ series: The Good Little Wolf, A H Benjamin, ill. Sarah Aspinall, A & C Black (2010), 978 1 4081 2401 7, £9.99 hbk ‘White Wolves’ series: Half as Big, Lily Hyde, ill. Karen Perrins, A & C Black (2010), 978 1 4081 2841 1, £4.99 pbk The Hut that Grew, Annie Dalton, ill. Laura Clark, A & C Black (2010), 978 1 4081 2650 9, £4.99 pbk ‘Orion Early Reader’ series: Horrid Henry’s Thank You Letter, Francesca Simon, ill. Tony Ross, Orion (2011), 978 1 4440 0105 1, £4.99 pbk The Three Little Pirates, Georgie Adams, ill. Emily Bolam, Orion (2006), 978 1 4440 0084 9, £4.99 pbk ‘Usborne Young Reading’ series: Stories of Pirates, Russell Punter, ill. Christyan Fox, Usborne (2007), 978 0 7460 8096 2, £4.99 hbk

* See, amongst other articles in the Books for Keeps archive ( ‘How Should We Teach Children to Read?’ by Henrietta Dombey (BfK No.156, Jan 2006) ‘Waiting for a Jamie Oliver: Beyond bog-standard literacy’ by Henrietta Dombey (BfK No.160, Sept 2006) ‘Panic about the Teaching of Reading’ by Henrietta Dombey (BfK No.186, Jan 2011)

Alison Kelly is Principal Lecturer and Coordinator of English Education, Roehampton University.

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