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Red Squirrel Phonics books are designed with one key purpose – for readers to succeed – and with 70 real stories they present an excellent way to help children start their reading journey.
The important point is that the series isn’t just decodable texts. What makes them stand out is the quality of the stories.
The first 50 titles centre around the adventures of a small group of characters (Nat, Dan and Sam) along with their pets and friends, creating a sense of familiarity that’s reassuring for children who are learning to read.
There’s plenty of intrigue and the books do a good job of widening pupils’ cultural capital.
The last 20 titles introduce more characters, building an additional level of challenge and fostering a sense of independence, heightening self-efficacy in reading.
The programme teaches children phonics skills in a sequential and systematic way, so that they can learn the sounds (phonemes), and the letters that represent them (graphemes) and then practise and apply this knowledge through reading a text that makes sense.
The graphic depiction of the stories supplement learning by disambiguating more complex ideas. As a whole, each text effectively and efficiently develops specific skills.
Aesthetically, the stories are designed with the reader in mind. With well spaced, perfectly sized text featuring alongside colourful illustrations.
The adventures depicted in the stories are completely relatable for young people and the characterisation is well thought through and developed.
The books are broken into seven levels. These levels each focus on different aspects of phonics, with sequenced, clearly defined words and sounds outlined at each phase.
Levels one to three cover 23 phonemes of English, introducing all consonants and short vowels. Levels four to seven introduce learners to more complex sounds including consonant digraphs, vowel digraphs, trigraphs and adjacent consonants, as well as graphemes for the learnt phonemes.
What is most impressive is the clarity of the learning journey. The books are designed for success from the outset and Red Squirrel Phonics has pitched the challenge of each text perfectly.
Red Squirrel offers two comprehensive teachers’ books to accompany the stories.
These additional resources give in-depth guidance and insight into the workings of phonics, making them the perfect accompaniment for both experts and beginners alike.
The teachers’ books contain a full phonics overview for the programme as well as explicit guided reading teaching notes and photocopiable activity pages for every story – perfect for extending the learning or for planning group exercises and homework.
There are also word banks and assessment resources to help check understanding and track the progress of learners.
You are looking to introduce a complete and engaging reading programme for beginner readers. Also consider if you are looking for a well supported resource that goes beyond just focusing on teaching phonics.
Prices start at £3.99 for individual books, with many sets available. See raintree.co.uk/red-squirrel-phonics for full details.
Reviewed by Adam Riches
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