How to find a scheme that matches your child’s reading age, but makes reading fun all at the same time! I am delighted to have been chosen to introduce some of the great new reading materials from Oxford University Press.
Most parents with school aged children will already be familiar with the characters of Biff, Chip and Kipper! Oxford University Press have recently relaunched their Read with Oxford range, alongside a Progress with Oxford range and an update of their fantastic, award winning website www.oxfordowl.co.uk , together designed to support reading and phonics learning both at home and at school, with the two main aims being to help parents find books that match a child’s reading stage and ultimately to make reading fun.
The big question is, can a reading scheme be fun? I am unreservedly passionate about reading, and reading for pleasure, firmly believing that children need to have an opportunity to read a wide range texts and that, above all it needs to be enjoyable. Sometimes reading schemes have a bit of a bad press, they can be very prescriptive and a little bit dull, being more about reading for improvement rather than reading for pleasure. But, what I absolutely love about this re-launch, is that some fabulous authors and illustrators such as Korky Paul and Julia Donaldson are on board too. It’s no longer all about Biff, Chip and Kipper. Not that there’s anything wrong with Biff, Chip and Kipper of course! There is a lot to be said for familiar characters, some children find a comfort in this and indeed will rely on this secure familiarity when working on improving their reading skills. Because, reading after all is a skill. Just like riding a bike, or learning to swim, it needs to be practiced over and over again. Reading skills are not just about the words on the page, using visual and contextual clues, all add up together to make a rounded and successful reader. With Korky Paul and Valerie Thomas’ Winnie and Wilbur stories and Julia Donaldson tales on the menu, there really is something for everyone. Even the Biff, Chip and Kipper books have had an update, the covers and illustrations appear brighter and have a contemporary look. What I feel this range does, is to combine reading for progress with reading for pleasure. Children will have choices about what they prefer to read, there is a brilliant mix of modern and traditional tales, well-known characters, super-heroes and non-fiction.
Oxford University Press kindly sent us a selection of the new ranges to try out. Beforehand it was suggested we complete the online quiz on the Oxford Owl website for both of my Bitsy Bookworms. This is a really important first step in identifying your child’s current stage as ensuring your children is starting at the appropriate level is key in engaging them. It is a useful guide if you are unsure of what the book bands mean and what your child can do to improve further. My son is a complete beginner reader so was obviously recommended Stage 1 and my daughter Stage 5. We received a couple of reading books associated with each stage, as well as an activity book for each of them and a box of Story Games cards (I was most excited about these!).
Stage 1 books
The Stage 1 books are aimed at pre-schoolers aged 3-4 years, who already enjoy listening to stories and are just beginning to recognise letter sounds and read simple words. What I have always liked about the books is that they give parents guides at the front or back of how to use them along with ideas for comprehension questions at the end. I feel that in this sense, they have totally upped their game! There are lots of tips on sharing the stories together, extended stories and further activities to carry out. When my eldest started school, she began by bringing home books with pictures only, to encourage re-telling skills, story language and vocabulary. These books are great for preparing children for this and include key words and phrases for reading when your child is ready. Both books I received, contained more than one story which also provides good value for money. My son is just at the stage of learning letter sounds. He enjoyed making predictions in the ‘Picnic Fun’ book and then finding out on the next page, what really happened. Initially when I asked him what he thought might happen, he just said “I don’t know” but with some modelling from me (and some input from his big sister) he quickly began to speculate for himself.
Stage 5 books
The Stage 5 books are aimed at confident readers who are becoming independent at reading shorter chapter book. My daughter is an able reader but a reluctant one. She adores listening to stories, longer chapter books included and loves being read to. With a bit of persuasion she will usually, happily read her school reading books out loud to one of us, but I have been trying to encourage her for a while to read shorter chapter books independently, as I know that she is capable! When the books arrived, as expected, she wasn’t that fussed to read them with me, but when she saw that one of the books was a ‘Winnie and Wilbur’ story she was easily persuaded. She knew that the story was likely to be funny, as she was already familiar with the characters and this is why I think the new range will be so successful. I even caught her reading this particular book to her herself in bed when she couldn’t sleep, so then I knew it was a hit!
Progress with Oxford books
The two activity books sent in our package I loved, and more importantly so do my Bitsy Bookworms! Created with busy families in mind, from a parent’s point of view they are fabulous! They fully support the National Curriculum, and best of all, have picture clues to show your child how to do each activity independently – genuis! All of the books contain a character to keep learning fun and contain loads of fun stickers to reward effort. There’s also a progress chart at the back which is a handy checker for both of you as to which objectives have been met.
Story Games Cards
I knew, as soon as I saw these cards that they were going to be a little bit special, and I wasn’t disappointed! Based on well-loved traditional tales, with the most gorgeous illustrations, they consist of a set of flashcards with three different games that will help children to:
- read phrases using phonics and match them to characters.
- re-tell favourite stories and build vocabulary
- develop creative writing skills by telling and writing their own versions of stories.
We were throughly entertained when playing with these cards. My littlest Bitsy Bookworm was able to get involved by re-telling the story of the ‘Gingerbread Man’ and although they say suitable for Stages 1-2, my biggest Bitsy Bookworm enjoyed them too, using the cards together to make up her own stories and adding little details in along the way. We will be 100% playing with these on a regular basis!
The Oxford Owl Website
I could honestly rave on and on about this website all day. I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know that it existed before reviewing these products, having probably been a bit resistant to formal reading schemes outside of school, but I’ve been missing out! It includes: advice and support for parents on reading, phonics writing and maths and is completely FREE to use. Most importantly it is full of fun and interactive reading related activities. Topic areas include:
- Grammar games
- Story Writing
- Colouring sheets
- Times tables
- Telling the time
There are activities to match each book at every stage – an amazing, extra, free resource which again adds value for money to the Read with Oxford books that you may have purchased, educational games and best of all a FREE e-book library for 3-11 year olds, with tablet friendly versions to download and read. There are storyteller videos galore with stories told by professional storytellers and the one and only picture book celebrity Julia Donaldson. What else could you ask for?! This really is the ultimate resource for parents and children and a great first step in making reading fun, interactive, exploratory and playful.
The team at Oxford University Press have kindly agreed to giveaway a selection of their new reading materials to one lucky winner. To enter, take the online quiz and comment below by midnight Sunday 8th July, with the Reading Stage that would best suit your child. I will then select a winner at random. The prize will consist of a range of reading resources chosen by Oxford University Press that will suit your chosen reading age. Entrants must be UK residents.
We received the books and products reviewed here from Oxford University Press as a gift, but all opinions are my own.