So, here is one teacher's observation of using real books within the context of a commercial scheme.
The school and the problem
Our School in London has been using Ruth Miskin Literacy for nearly three years. It has been very successful in getting their pupils to functionally read. The pupils moving into Year 3, who had been using RML for two years, had a higher reading age than the children moving out of Year 3 into Year 4. The problem, as C. (Literacy Coordinator) told me when I met her in October 2011, is that her pupils don't want to read. C. wanted something to make her pupils want to pick up a book.
I recommended a series of teacher resources based on classic children's books. Read & Respond allows teachers to use a whole, real book with their class, covering guided, shared and independent reading, plus writing, plot/character/setting activites plus some speaking & listening - put another way, approximately half-a-term's literacy teaching, with a real book at the core.
The books that this series is based on are not education versions of classic books. They are the real thing. There are 92 of them, from We're Going on a Bear Hunt, to Not Now Bernard. The Iron Man, Carrie's War, Stormbreaker, Holes etc. A full list is here.
I went back to see C. in March to see how she was getting on with Read & Respond. She said that it had been a great hit. The best thing for me was when she said that a parent had come to see her to ask her "what she had been doing to her child?" The night before, her son had picked up a book voluntarily for the first time in years! Since then, C. has send me the following testimonial.
The staff at the school have been using the Read and Respond books this academic year. They have been a tremendous hit with both staff pupils and parents.
In Year 6 many of the children were very reluctant readers but since the introduction of the Read and Respond materials, most of the children have begun to really enjoy reading and have benefitted from the variety of genres available to them. As there are a number of the same books the children have enjoyed discussing with their friends which books they have read so far. The activities from the ‘teacher’ books have been used for ‘Big Writing’ tasks and again the children are motivated to write as they so enjoyed the books. The parents love them and especially appreciate when the teachers have set them as reading homework tasks. “We want more!” replied one Year 6 teacher.
In Year 5 the teachers found ‘Street Child’ to be an excellent stimulus to help plan a scheme of work for Literacy, as it linked in well to their History topic on the Victorians. There was good advice on differentiation, good activities for Guided Reading, good links with the assessment focuses on the APP grids; the interactive CD contains activities that are interesting and stimulating and all of it is child friendly.
In Year 3 the books are used three times a week for focus group guided reading sessions. The teacher’s guide is used to help structure discussions and the other resources in the booklet are used for consolidation/follow-on work with independent groups.
“All in all, a real winner and guided reading would be a poorer place without them!” stated one Year 3 teacher.
In Key Stage 1 the teachers have found that the Read and Respond books are bright and colourful and, therefore, very attractive to the children making them excited about reading. The activity book is very helpful when creating fun and interesting activities relating to the texts. It is user friendly and easy to understand. It is wonderful that every child has access to a book and can follow the story.
In conclusion, the Read and Respond books have been a great success here . We hope to be able to order more in the future. Please keep on producing them!
I hope that you find this a useful piece, and backup for everything you have been campaigning for - using real books in the classroom. I visit too many schools who use reading schemes across the school and wonder why they have reluctant readers and poor writers. I am deeply concerned by the schools who move into 'special measures' and all of a sudden ditch real books in favour of reading schemes - because it is easy to track progress.