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It’s hard enough to be aware that you are lagging behind your peers with your reading. To be then presented with books clearly aimed at children much younger than you is just adding salt to the wound.
Children grow up. Their tastes and interests evolve. Shouldn’t their reading matter reflect this, even if their reading skills have fallen behind their chronological age?
The Island Adventure series from Phonics Books represents an admirable effort to meet that need. As well as publishing resources for beginner readers, Phonic Books has created a varied collection of story series aimed specifically at helping pupils aged 8-14 to fill the gaps in their phonics skills and knowledge.
You can tell that these resources have been produced by experienced teachers. As you read through the ten-book Island Adventure stories, for example, you can’t help mentally ticking off all the elements you would want from such a series – not to mention a few you might not have thought of.
There is clear progression. Each book focuses on one or two target phonemes but also revisits those from previous books.
There is a practice page at the beginning to prepare the reader by introducing key words. There is also a vocabulary page, including idiomatic language, to broaden pupils’ own personal lexicons.
I particularly liked the way they unobtrusively show the readers how to split multi-syllabic words on each page – it suggests a thoughtful approach to teaching while remaining sensitive to the self-esteem of the child.
Just as impressive is the activities book that accompanies the series. With a section for each individual tale, it provides an interesting range of photocopiable challenges for the pupil to complete independently.
These focus on a range of crucial reading and writing skills as well as providing targeted phonics practice.
Above all, these books have been created to make reading a genuine pleasure. The stories are fast-paced and absorbing, whilst the illustrations immediately appeal to the targeted age-group.
By adopting a quest or mission style narrative, they cleverly draw in the reader and make you want to read further, not least by ending each book with a cliff-hanger (sometimes literally!) that propels you into the next book of the series.
And if the target phoneme is a little obvious at times, that can be forgiven as these books are not meant to win literary prizes – they are there to build confidence, fluency and engagement in reluctant readers.
Mission accomplished, I’d say.
You want to help older, struggling readers close the reading gap with their peers without patronising them with reading materials written for younger children.
Island Adventure series (ten books) are priced at £39, and the workbook is £25. Find out more at phonicbooks.co.uk.
Reviewed by Mike Davies
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