* Prices may differ from that shown
Recognising the fact that boys struggle more with reading, and are significantly less likely to read for pleasure, Oxford Reading Tree created a new series designed to appeal to boys, and make them want to read. This book is part of that series, Project X. Of course the book may well be enjoyed by girls as well.
Many of the Project X books feature a group of children who can shrink to only a few inches tall. In this book, Max and Tiger are playing football while Max's mother makes gingerbread men. When they lose their football, and Max's mother steps out for a minute they decide to take the game indoors, where they shrink to the size of gingerbread men and play football with the raisins. Then Tiger has fun rearranging the decorations on the gingerbread men. When Max's mother returns, Tiger hides by pretending to be a gingerbread man, but it's time for the biscuits to be baked. Oh no, Tiger must run as fast as he can!
This book is yellow band, or level three, so assuming children have started with the earlier books, the characters will already be familiar. Each page has only one sentence, with bold clear print, and easy to read words. The words are all words that could be sounded out phonetically with the exception of gingerbread, which is one of the longest words as well. The illustrations clearly show what is going on in the story so that a child could easily guess an unfamiliar word (such as gingerbread) by context and the pictures.
This series has drawn some heavy criticism for not teaching phonics. It does not teach French, mathematics, or etiquette either. The series is designed not as a complete programme to teach children to read, but only as resource to give boys books they will want to read, which start out easy enough for children with any reading experience and very gradually progress. The parents guide book for this series clearly advises teaching children phonics as well. I really believe most of the criticism leveled at these books comes from people who expected far too much from this series. As a tool to encourage my boys to enjoy books, I have found these outstanding.
I bought these books for my oldest son who was 5 at the time. He has recently turned 6 and can read this book with ease. I honestly believe they really helped him in learning to read, and building on the skills he learned through programmes like hooked on phonics. The publishers of this book claim it would make boys want to read, and as far as I am concerned, it has lived up to it's claims.
Not only have these books been a wonderful resource in helping my son learn to read though, they also make nice story books as well. The illustrations are very interesting to young children, and the story line simple enough for a very young child to understand. My two year old regularly requests these books at story time, and cheerfully calls out some of the more familiar passages like "Run, run as fast as you can". Of course the fact that he always liked the traditional gingerbread man story has likely contributed to his enjoyment of these books.
The only real problem I have with these books is price. You can get this story as part of a box set that combines two stories in each of 12 books, as well as a separate parents guide for around £20 from Amazon or ebay. If bought separately though this book is only 16 pages long and will cost around £3.50 new. I appreciate the fact that a lot of research has gone into this series. The illustrations are absolutely brilliant, and the story is well loved by my children. However, it is still a very thin small paperback book, and I do think a lower price would be more fair. But in spite of this, I continue to buy single books in this series at the higher reading levels, as I can afford them. Most of the higher level books are even more expensive, although they have a few more pages. I suppose the fact that I continue to buy them, regardless of the price says something in favour of these books. While I would love to switch to cheaper books, I just have not found anything else that makes my sons so eager to read. I have rated this as good value for money, even with my complaining about the price. At the end of the day - and product that helps this much with a child's reading ability is worth the price, however inflated it may be.