Helping children learn to read is just the start on their journey to developing a life-long passion for reading!
We would like to draw your attention to a series of books from Maverick Publishing called Maverick Early Readers. The books have been designed for guided reading, so it is expected that they are shared with an adult.
There is a fantastic range of titles available, all with really charming illustrations and stories that will appeal to both boys and girls. Each book is well made, with sturdy paperback covers and printed on high-quality paper. We are impressed that the books are colour-coded with the book banding scheme, as developed by the UCL (University College London) Institute of Education, that is widely used in UK schools and libraries. The colours are indicated on the spine, front and back cover of each book, simplifying organisation and reading level identification.
The earliest bands are structured around the Letters and Sounds phonics programme. We like the fact that natural English is used throughout, which keeps a good flow within the stories and avoids forcing phonics awkwardly into sentences. Books in the earliest Pink and Red bands feature around 30-50 words per story, and include two stories per book, which is ideal to keep young children’s interest and focus concentration. Stories are presented in simple sentences and the vocabulary used is mostly one syllable words, with some two syllable words which can be decoded.
Each story features an information page for teachers and parents to use with the child before beginning the story, to practise high frequency words, for example. We also really liked the ‘Letter Trace’ pages where a child can practise forming individual letters with their finger. Arrows indicate the correct letter formation, which is particularly helpful for parents.
Stories in the books at higher levels have gradually more complex sentences, broader vocabularies including visual clues in the illustrations to help with words that aren’t decodable. The story themes move further away from familiar experiences, vary punctuation more, and include words in capital letters for emphasis. Further advances throughout the bands include more dialogue, inference and extended descriptions. Gold and White bands (levels 9 and 10) have short chapters, a feature that we really like.
Maverick Publishing have certainly put a lot of thought into planning their Early Readers scheme. They have included excellent, free downloadable audio files for many of the stories. Children can follow animated text either on their own devices or in a class situation, on an interactive whiteboard. Having these is a useful resource, particularly for those who may need support with pronunciation because English is their second language.
For Pink and Red banded books, free activity sheets are available for each story. We felt that some of these were less useful, because they required young children to have a good knowledge of capital letters. In addition, some words were capitalised which aren’t normally capitalised such as Dog and Panda. We felt it was a shame that the typeface was different to the books in that they featured the more usual typeface of ‘a’ and ‘g’.
Another feature that we liked are the quizzes which are found in the higher-banded books, from Yellow (level 3) upwards. These are helpful to both teachers and parents as a check on a child’s understanding of the text.
All in all, we found the Early Readers guided reading scheme very appealing and we have no hesitation in recommending it. We look forward to seeing more books in the scheme which we understand will number 100 books, by May 2019.
Disclosure: Topmarks was supplied with a selection of the Early Readers books by Maverick Publishing, free of charge for a fair and honest review, with no obligation.