How do teachers help children become enthusiastic and successful readers and writers of non-fiction? This book shows children learning actively and collaboratively, drawing on secondary sources to extend their understanding. The huge importance of the practitioner is recognised: as creator of powerful contexts where talk and questioning are encouraged; as promoter of the study skills young researchers need; and as expert on the exciting variety of print and electronic sources that awaken the imagination and inspire learning that goes far beyond the superficial.
This is a concise and well-written minibook which has at its core the need to make engagement with non-fiction texts an active experience for young children. It takes this stance from theoretical, as well as practical, perspectives, and gives examples of good practice. A short and thought-provoking chapter (chapter 3) explores the selection and use of non-fiction texts, including electronic texts, film and the Internet. Another, showing how teachers can help children acquire the library and study skills they need to become genuine young researchers follows this third chapter. Pleasingly, all of the suggestions are realistic.
The minibook is not exclusively about non-fiction however. Margaret Mallett makes a clear distinction between narrative and non-narrative non-fiction, and she highlights the diverse opportunities available through each in the development of general aspects of children’s literacy. Many of the suggestions she makes regarding the writing experiences of children through non-fiction are applicable across a range of genres, but it is refreshing for both children and teachers to have non-fiction stimuli as starting points for a variety of literacy activities – speaking and listening, drama, cross-curricular opportunities, and even assessment.
This booklet is the 24th in a very helpful series of UKLA minibooks, and this one is of practical value for primary teachers for whom the selection and use of non-fiction lies outside of their customary practice. We read all too often that the literacy practices of boys fall behind girls at an early age. Perhaps the more regular selection of non-fiction texts would help to redress this imbalance.
If I have a criticism of this book, it is an aspect of the title. The examples of work within the book are taken predominantly from key stages 1 and 2, and the bulk of the activities that Margaret suggests are more appropriate to children of primary age than Early Years. As such the book’s title, encompassing ages 4 – 11, seems broader than the content embraces. Nonetheless, this is a useful and practical minibook, and I recommend it unreservedly.