|The Oxford Reading Tree Read At Home collection|
I was at the stage of mild dislike, where I tolerated them because I could see that my daughter was able to read the ones she brought home from school.
And clearly school were using them as part of their reading scheme, so my first reaction was to trust that they have a plan; a strategy; and that Biff and Chip must somehow play a part in that plan.
However, after my 5 year old brought home "The Magic Key" last night I moved on a stage - straight to hatred.
She might as well have been reading a list of words to practise her reading. The story "The Magic Key" is less of a story and more of a vague throwing together of scenes where the cast have a limited vocabulary that generally involves some, or all, of them saying "Oh no". The gist of this 'story' was that Chip and Biff found a magic key. They picked it up and it made them shrink. They picked up a few random objects on the floor (pencil, pin) and marvelled at how heavy they were (at this point I was vaguely interested in why, of all the objects them could find, a sharp pin which was now the size of a sword, should be chosen. I needn't have bothered) Then they saw the dolls house and tried to get inside. OK, so far there is some promise of adventure. They have, after all, a weapon. But no. They couldn't get in the house and that 'storyline' was abandoned. Then a dark shadow scared them. Oh, I thought, somewhat foolishly, here we go, here's the action. But no. It was a mouse. A boring mouse that looked at them and went away again. And that, dear readers, was the end.
I can't work out where the drama is in that. I can't work out where there is consideration of plot. Of a beginning, a middle and an end. Of conflict and resolution. Of character development.
I refuse to accept the answer that "there doesn't need to be any". Of course there does. You wouldn't try and teach a child to read by making them read the dictionary. The reason to learn to read is to be able to experience other worlds, to jump into stories and enjoy them. And of course, to be able to learn things from non-fiction books, to read newspapers, to read road signs, to communicate.
Children will not get a love of books (actual books, made of paper) or even a love of reading, if this is what they are subjected to. You wouldn't produce a film with this plot, so why is it acceptable in a book?
I understand that when writing for a reading scheme you are supposed to use a certain batch of words. What I am less sure on is why? Why not just read stories; any stories. The common words, by their very nature, will appear more often and will be picked up quicker due to their repetition. There will be tricky words, but then again, I'm in my late 30s and still have to occasionally ask what a word means.
There are hundreds of stories out there that are good stories. With all the Roald Dahls, Julia Donaldsons, Enid Blytons, A A Milnes, Roger Hargreaves' out there, why oh why oh why do we need this rubbish?
I have a set of these at home gifted from a neighbour who is also a teacher. Of all the books my girls have these Chip and Biff stories are NEVER selected by them when it's bedtime story time.
I don't know what frustrates me more. The fact that my daughter has to read this stuff to tick the box in her Reading Record, or that I could write the stories so much better!
What do you think? Why do teachers use these 'schemes'? Do you use them at home? What are the advantages of this kind of book? I presume there must be some, otherwise someone, somewhere, is making money out of a con.
I'd appreciate your thoughts. Biscuits at the ready as ever.
Read my thoughts on the teaching of phonetics and the new phonetics test here.