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33 Ways to Help with Reading

Raewyn Hickey
Published 2009
ISBN# 978041544887
Publisher - Routledge
Price at time of review - £18.99

This book is aimed at all adults who work with children aged 6-11 who struggle to learn the basic skills in reading, but some of its activities could be usefully employed in the general classroom context too.  It is especially useful for teaching assistants and parents, and those without specialist training in the teaching of reading.  Professionals can sometimes forget how much they know about children’s learning when it has become a normal part of their lives, and they may not always point out to those supporting struggling children some of the very basic misconceptions and difficulties they may experience.  This book explains these basics in a simple, though not patronizing way.

There is a clear and not over-explained rationale – which is that the book contains ideas for adult-led activities to help children who struggle with the everyday sequence of the teaching of reading in the classroom.  The book contains a range of multi-sensory and enjoyable games and activities, grouped into basic skills areas which include learning the letter names, high frequency words, phonics, letter patterns and rhyming, and making sense of text. The first set of ‘Beginning Activities’  starts from the simple basics of checking for one-to-one correspondence, and that children understand the  relationship between written and spoken word and the gaps between words on the page.

The activities in each section are designed to be selected as and when required, and are not in hierarchical order. The resources needed are simple, readily available, easily makeable, or can be photocopied from the book. As not all activities may be selected, a useful feature is that basic rules are repeated in all relevant activities, like the instruction to choose plastic letters in different colours for the same letter, to avoid children associating letter with colour, or sorting by colour.  However, one point not met until the section on rhyming – that some children may need to have their hearing checked - could be mentioned earlier (perhaps in the introduction) or more frequently in the activities.

There are a few small problems in the text in my view.  When children are required to ‘sound out’, words need to be selected very carefully, especially for those who struggle.  Thus words like ‘small’ may not be the best choice for a blending game. Also, the verb ending ed doesn’t always sound like t, as the suggested song states, and selecting erosion and evasion in a game when you have just taught the child that sion sounds like shun, may confuse.

The lack of hierarchy or of any indication of the age of the children for whom the activity is suitable may also cause some difficulties.  Some words in the phonics section are suddenly much more complex, both in terms of reading, and of comprehension, e.g. sought, stationary, creation, labour, valour, austere, reprove, latitude.  Struggling with a lot of probably unfamiliar words completely out of context could be a little demotivating, even for some older children.

Despite these minor demurs, this is a useful and readable book that could support any primary teacher, especially where they need strategies for a teaching assistant to give extra support to individuals or groups, or to suggest ideas to parents who want to help their children.

Buy now via the NATE Bookshop

Lana Boztas, 23/02/2009

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