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Many students in Australian schools struggle with their reading, but this can be addressed and rectified. These students do not enjoy reading and do not pick up books naturally. They consider it a chore, and may experience anxiety around the idea of reading. They need an informal, joyous style of writing that shows confidence in them completing a book, and one which is not formal or too difficult. If the level of text is easy, it means they go faster but at least they are practising their reading and engaging with books.
Humour can also be important, so anything relevant to the topics of these books that is humorous or ridiculous is also included.
You will also note the repetitive use of sight words, the informal nature of the content, and, lastly, the use of a central character on their own reaching for the inner strength to do something bigger than themselves. This is to inspire the students to “have another go” at school and at improving their literacy. I remember teaching some students who basically, at the age of 11-12, had given up and considered themselves failures who would never get anywhere in life. This was heart-breaking for me and their parents, but worse for those students who faced a less than fulfilled and happy life. We need to break that feeling step-by-step!
This series was developed by Australian authors for Australian readers. The reading levels were set at reading ages of approximately 6-7 years old, or at a Reading Recovery level of about 20-25, but the content is suitable for adolescents and adults. The sight words are introduced to be reviewed before reading. And after reading, there are extension exercises to improve reading and writing skills. You are all experiencing students with self-esteem and anxiety concerns in regard to success with reading. We are addressing this “epidemic” of perception of student failure with reading which can be addressed with the right content and directed help from the teacher.
The content is curriculum-based whether this be related to Australian history – for example, the Gold Rushes or Leichhardt – Indigenous perspectives, stories related to our Asian neighbours, and Sustainability. These books were designed to provide short sentences, using informal vernacular without slang or crude-talk, to assist fluency of reading across numerous pages. It is designed specifically for the student who is not practising their reading and is in serious danger of regression in competence. Reading frequency is well-researched as an obvious factor in improving fluency. These books may be “easy” or below some students’ level of competency, but practising is essential for fluency.
The Teacher Guides are comprehensive. They contain Before Reading exercises which address familiarity with the sight words, and After Reading exercises which extending into reading, writing, and comprehension. It is aimed at building word vocabulary, sight words, and writing practice exercises. It is unashamedly repetitive, to allow fluency with some of these difficult sight words. The exercises are extensive and allow plenty of variety for the students. This series can be used as Take Home Readers, Guided Readers for use in classrooms, and as library titles in the children and adolescent sections. Teachers can address specific topics to cover in the crowded curriculum using these books for general reference titles. For example, ANZAC Day, Indigenous perspectives, goal-setting, well-being classes, Australian history, explorers and many more examples.
R. T. Watts, Dip.Tch (Sturt), BSc (Macq), MBA (UQ) Publisher