Before I became a secondary school TA and now librarian, I completed part of a teacher training degree in the primary age range. I am finding that, with the advent of Accelerated Reader, I am having to revisit some of the frustrations that I had during this training and my feelings towards reading schemes.
When preparing the library for AR, my colleague and I were aware that we were lacking in books for the lower ability and we researched and purchased many such books for the upper end of this ability level (that being 1.7 – 2.9.) we did struggle to find age – appropriate books for the very low levels and thus have had to resort to some Oxford Reading Tree books: Biff, Chip and Kipper.
I can understand why there aren’t more high interest / very low reading ability books out there because the market for them isn’t that strong, but the fact is that 13 – 16 year olds with a reading age of five or six do exist. I am almost embarrassed to direct our pupils to Biff and Chip, so far we haven’t had any complaints but I’m not sure what I’ll say when they inevitably come.
My issue with reading schemes stems from my own time at school. I’ve mentioned before that I could read before I went to nursery and I realise that that did make me atypical; however I still maintain that books with a good plot and story trump books which are obviously tailored to teach a particular phoneme blend any day. Surely there is a way to write books for this reading age without it being so painfully clear that the book has been designed to teach rather than to be enjoyed.
My nephew turns six next week and for some time he refused to read at school, stating the books were “too tricky for me.” Curious, considering he did read at home. As it turns out, he was just not enthralled by the ‘adventures’ of Biff, Chip and Kipper and, when the teacher allowed him to bring his Star Wars books in instead, he happily read them. He clearly takes after his aunty (on the reading scheme thing, not Star Wars!)
Who names their kids Biff, Chip and Kipper anyway?