Why do reading schemes have to look like and be so obviously reading schemes? Why are they so distinguishable by both adult and child at 20 paces from 'proper' books? Leveled and colour coded to provide a point of instant playground comparison. 'What level are you on then?' is something I've heard children ask each other on numerous occasions; great for those who wish to swank but confidence destroying of course for those who are getting stuck.
The great thing in theory about volunteering with VRH and working one to one with developing readers is that we use real picture books and not readers. The children are free to choose whatever they fancy. The problem with this of course is that what they fancy can be frustratingly difficult to decode and then they get discouraged.
What I would like, please, is a range of beautiful books of different shapes and sizes, illustrated by all our best and lovely illustrators that beginning readers might be able to pick up and access without knowing they were 'doing' reading practice. Can't we get a bit sneakier and more imaginative in designing these objects? I sense the US, with Dr Seuss as a founding father (put him on Mount Rushmore surely?) is better at this; Arnold Lobel and now apparently fab pigeon-on-bus man Mo Willems spring to mind. Julia Donaldson's 'Songbirds' are good but should just be the starting point. I am trying to form my own collection of titles where I find them (Vivienne Schwartz's 'There are cats in this book' has proved a great book giving day purchase for VRH box incidently) but it remains a bit hit and miss.
One of the ranges in the library that I find most useful in this respect (although they still look too uniform not to be clocked as work by the kids) are those published by Franklin Watts; Tadpoles, Leapfrogs, Reading Corner and particularly the more complex Hopscotch have all made for pretty good foraging. They're often genuinely funny, they use a good mix of illustrators and they cover a great variety of styles and topics from traditional fairy tales to some imaginative historical titles: It's hard to resist a book called 'Henry 8th Has to Choose'.
I actually even bought a couple; 'Beowulf and Grendel' is by Martin Waddell and illustrated by Graham Howells and is part of the Hopscotch 'adventure' range which also covers King Arthur, Robin Hood and Blackbeard amongst others. It tickled me that it was possible to introduce one's children to the roots of Anglo Saxon story telling in under 500 words. It's really bloodthirsty. The boys love it.
'Grendel filled a huge, dragon-skin bag with human flesh. Blood dripped from the bag as he dragged it back to his lair.'
I'm not going to subject you to the picture that accompanies that text, you might be eating a biscuit by your computer or something. But it's pretty cool.
oh go'arn then...you can have a bit of Thursday gore.
'Beowulf and Grendel' by Martin Waddell, illustrated byGraham Howells, pub. Franklin Watts isbn 978-0-7496-8563-8