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My eldest son is 5 years old, and when he was at nursery last April, the teacher decided that he should start reading. The books he initially came home with were very basic in terms of the text, but I was really unimpressed with the poor quality of them. They had dull information, and pictures that were so old, eg. one was about vehicles, and the pictures looked like they were from a 1970s american TV show. I decided to take matters into my own hands, and ordered a set of books featuring the characters Biff, Chip and Kipper.
I knew these were good because my nephew is one year older than my son, and he was reading some of these books from school, and a friend also confirmed to me her mum is a primary school teacher and she also uses these with early readers. They are from the Oxford reading tree range, and they are created by Roderick Hunt and Alex Brychta. The set I got covered levels 1 to 6, so from a non-reader to a fairly competent reader.
My sons both love these books and the characters involved in the family. My nephew is still fond of them too. This particular book, Six in a Bed, is from level one. The story is very simplistic.
There are 7 pages to the story. 6 of these are 3 double page spreads. The story is really just helping to get to know the members of the family that are involved in all the stories.
Mum and Dad are in bed reading. Underneath the picture, it very simply says 'Mum and Dad.' Youngest son Kipper then joins them. They are reading to him. Underneath it says, 'Mum, Kipper and Dad.' I won't go through them all, as I think you get the idea, as Biff, Chip and Floppy the dog join them, the story follows the same vein.
Basically, by a lot of repetition, and great illustrations, the kids have learned how to 'read' the story by looking at the picture and text together. My eldest now can read it all by himself, and my 3 year old has memorised it.
What I love about this series is that there is always so much to talk about even in such a simple story. It is also very easy to relate to, as the situation is familiar to them. They love sneaking into our bed to have cuddles and stories if they can, and our dog would love to be in there too.
In our copy, there is also activities relevant to the story after the story finishes. Firstly, there is a page with some prompts to discuss the plot of the story. It shows four members of the family, each with a speech bubble coming from them with a question. Eg. Who got into bed with Mum and Dad first? What do you like to do with all of your family?
There is then a matching activity so that you can match each member of the family with an item they had taken into the bed, such as books and toys.
I have found my children enjoy the whole of this book immensely. They are really concentrating so they can answer the questions and do the matching, and they have picked up some early reading themselves. The format is very suitable to learning to read. There is nothing in this book at all that could date it in my eyes. It could be from 20 years ago, or given to kids 20 years from now, and the concept of a family would still be familiar to them.
I am glad I purchased this set to help keep up their motivation in early reading, as I am sure my eldest is only doing as well because we support him as much at home using the whole series.