Monday, February 3, 2014

The story of Robin Hood - or how Fiction vs Non Fiction should be part of a child's reading development.

"All About Robin Hood" by Claire Llewellyn. An engaging and brilliant book to stimulate young minds. 
Like most parents, we are caught in the middle of a huge debate surrounding the way children learn to read. On one hand, you have huge arguments raging about "artificial phonics" making some good points about phonics and decoding only being effective if they can be directly linked to more natural ways of learning to read (for instance, books that encourage decoding, breaking down etc but do so in the course of a story - or are further backed up by parents and teachers taking the time to apply the lessons learned in school / with phonics books to other books a child might read). 

On the other hand, you have testing and measurement that falls flat on its face when children who are happily quite fluent readers being sent back to square one to be tested on their phonics skills - skills they've already moved on from. 

One thing we have noticed is that non-fiction books are now more regularly in demand by Charlotte than stories, and when the above book was sent home with her from school, it raised some interesting points of observation. 

1) Charlotte was much more inclined to engage with the book as it raised questions of its own (Did Robin Hood really exist? Facts vs fiction). 

2) A recognisable 'fictional' character could have some basis in the real world and in history (History is something else that's like nectar to a bee to Charlotte at the moment). 

3) This is the real crux - the book did not 'baby' her - that is, it did not feature a completely throwaway story designed purely to test and repeat certain words at the current reading level. 

The book's layout was also fantastic, eschewing the usual paragraph / illustration pattern for something that allows children to follow a more interesting path through each page (It's a bit like a higgledy piggledy comic-layout approach). 

Claire Llewellyn has been regularly contributing to the fantastic Springboard Stories magazine and book accompaniments. The Oxford Learning Tree range is fabulous, but this one really stood out and showed that there is a huge gap in the early readers / children's book market for books of this ilk. As much as we adore fiction and stories, the effect of this book on Charlotte was amazing. More like this please!

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