New Graded Readers from OUP

I got an email the other day with the list of new graded reader releases from OUP.

Basically:

  • 2 new Classic Tales,
  • 4 Dominoes,
  • 4 Bookworms
  • 1 Bookworms Factfiles
  • 3 Bookworms Playscripts
  • and a whole bunch of Read and Imagine titles.

To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed.

The Read and Imagine titles are nice, as that series is finally coming together (but I still like Read and Discover better, as the content and difficulty are slightly better aligned).

Now that the Academy is taking off, and to address our perennial problem at Tohoku University, I basically want new books. Lots of new books, and ideally books that are not yet another rewrite of Romeo and Juliet, or Jane Eyre, or Hamlet, or whatever.

I mean, seriously, if ten other publishers have already done a version of a classic book, please don’t make more.

I know it’s cheap to adapt a classic, and people will buy it for the name recognition, but what really gets me excited now is new original content, both fiction and non-fiction.

I’ll order the Read and Imagine stuff and review it here at some point.

Anyone else sick of the endless rewrites?

REVIEW: Mr. Men and Little Miss Books

Really great. Much better than I expected!

I got these two boxed sets recently to add to our library at the Cambridge Academy. However, before I could use them with our students my granddaughter got her hands on them and insisted I read them all to her first -they are now her favorite books by far.

I’ve turned into a big fan too. I’ll run through what I think of each set briefly, then talk about how they might be used in a program.

The Mr Men My Complete Collection box contains 47 paperback Mr Men books in a very cool box.

The books are a bit hit and miss, but most of them are really entertaining.

My personal favourites are Mr. Tickle, Mr. Greedy, and the surprise hit Mr. Dizzy. We loved Mr. Dizzy because it contained several riddles aimed at young children, and Alyssa was thrilled to be able to answer them.

In fact, all the Mr. Men and Little Miss books are aimed at children, introducing slightly more adult vocabulary and frequently speaking directly to the reader, encouraging them to interact with the books. They also contain little moral lessons, but this is not too overwhelming.

The Little Miss My Complete Collection is similar, consisting of 35 paperback Little Miss books.

To be honest, I was a bit worried these would be very dated, or sexist. So far that has not been the case. We’ve only read half a dozen of these, but already I’ve found a couple I love: Little Miss Magic (where Mr. Tickle’s arms get shrunk) and Little Miss Hug.

In fact, I think the Little Miss books might even be better, because they tend to feature other characters and integrate them into the stories. Somehow they work really well.

From an ER library perspective, word counts and YLs for both the Mr Men and Little Miss books are in the Tadoku Kanzen Guide (with just a couple of exceptions for each box -the newest books). There is no audio, but I am planning to record our own -this would be a ‘two birds with one stone’ situation, as I could then give a copy to Alyssa too ūüôā

The books are all YL1.5 or so, and 500-800 words, with simple stories and occasionally challenging vocabulary or grammar. The language is slightly old-fashioned, and some of the character names don’t mean¬†what I originally thought they meant. Mr. Dizzy, for example, is actually stupid rather than off-balance, and Mr. Mean is stingy rather than bad-natured.

Here are a couple of pages to show the kind of language used:

Still, for the beautiful artwork and the wonderful stories, I really recommend this series. I can’t wait to introduce them to our students, and am even looking forward to making the audio for each one.

Does anyone else have these books? Anything to add?

REVIEW: Kids’ Classic Readers

Great series but a bit more variety please

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Level 4 of Kids’ Classic Readers

A couple of weeks ago we received most of a set of Kids’ Classic Readers, a new series by e-Future edited by Rob Waring. I had high expectations for the series, and these were mostly met.

Kids’ Classic Readers consist of 60 books over six levels, from YL0.2-0.5. As the series name implies, the content is classic tales from around the world. And this is my main (only?) criticism of the series.

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List of titles

As you can see in the list above (click on the image to make it bigger), most of the titles are fairly original. My personal favourite this time round was The Wolf and the Fox (level 4). However, there are about ten titles in there that I wasn’t happy to see. Stories like The Gingerbread Man, or The Tortoise and the Rabbit. Stories that have been done to death. We already have about five versions of the Gingerbread Man, so I would hope that publishers would look beyond the obvious classics when bringing out new series. Kids’ Classic Readers goes a long way towards using new stories, but fails to do it completely.

Apart from this, I really like the series and think it’s a good fit for our program.

So what is in the books?

Great illustrations, well-graded text, interesting stories. The books have several useful sections:

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Introduction, list of characters with pictures, useful vocab with pictures

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Great illustrations, easy-to-read text (this is the book I like)

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Playlet based on the story text (useful for class speaking activities?)

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Visual review of the story (on the right). Could be used for preview or review activities?

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Hybrid CD. Normally I hate these, but this one works fine in our CD players (haven’t tried it in a computer yet)

We’re just going to be using Kids’ Classic Readers as part of our extensive reading library, but I can see how they would be very versatile as part of a four-skills kids’ class or even in a speaking focused class.

A nice addition to our collection.

PREVIEW: Vera the Alien Hunter (Graded Comic Readers)

My students are going to love this

IMG_7061

By the same people that brought us Magic Adventures and School Adventures (waiting for the final installment in May before I write a review), this new graded comic book series arrived yesterday. Vera the Alien Hunter is a girl with a vivid imagination. At one point she starts to meet aliens, although it is not clear if this is real or just her imagination. I have the first three volumes of the series (three stories in each): it seems there will be another three volumes, for a total of six volumes and eighteen stories.

The YL and word counts for each level are similar to the Magic Adventures comics: YL 0.5-0.9, and 300-500 words or so per story.

The Good

  • Really attractive artwork and fun stories.
  • The audio is very high quality
  • Word counts on all the books! Well done e-future.

The Bad

  • The CD is an MP3 CD, which means it doesn’t work with most of our CD players or the students’ ones at home. Pretty disappointed about this, especially as the previous comics had real CDs. Note for publishers: please use normal CDs if at all possible.
  • The books have three stories in each rather than being separate books. This could be a drawback in terms of flexibility (ie more students could use them if they were one book per story).

Overall

This is a great addition to the e-future comics collection. I’m looking forward to the last three volumes and can’t wait to share them with our students (once we re-record the CDs from MP3 to audio).

REVIEW: Oxford Decode and Develop (ORT)

One of my favourite additions to the Oxford Reading Tree

 

detective adventure

I’m a big fan of the Oxford Reading Tree series, and it forms the core of our beginner extensive reading program.

I’ve always felt the core stories were the best part of it, with additional components such as Floppy’s Phonics, Songbirds, and Fireflies good but not always maintaining the same level of story interest.

However, recently we bought a full set of the Oxford Decode and Develop series for ORT, and I am really impressed.

The stories feature the main characters and seem to be story based, with a similar¬†level of interest as the ‘trunk’ books.


The good

Same ORT characters and fun storylines
Audio available online for free
Phonics-based, so slightly easier to read for EFL students


The bad

The artwork seems slightly different
Er, that’s it


Overall

The content is more stand-alone and not really integrated with the trunk stories (this could be good or bad, I guess)
Big thumbs up from me


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Some of my favourites (yes, I like Floppy)

The following packs are available:

Level 1 (wordless): two packs
Level 1+: two packs
Level 2: two packs
Level 3: two packs
Level 4: two packs
Level 5: two packs
Level 6: one pack
Level 7: one pack
Level 8: one pack
Level 9: one pack

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You can see most of our collection here (some packs are on loan). We put each pack in a ziplock bag with its CD.

So I consider ODD to be a healthy addition to an ORT ER library. I would get the core stories first, but this is a good way to expand them if you want more of the similar.

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