Learn-to-read Treasure Hunts by Steve Cohen

This book is unfortunately, and ridiculously, out of print but it is sometimes possible to find a good second hand copy for just a couple of pounds. It is a brilliant book for helping to teach young children to read, interesting them in written text and rewarding them for their efforts. This book deserves to be reprinted.

The book contains 50 treasure hunts each with 3 or 4 clues printed on perforated pages ready for you to just tear out and hide around the home. The first clues contain few words with illustrations to aid comprehension and get successively more difficult with more words and fewer picture clues as your child gains confidence in reading. There is a review page at the end of each hunt to revise new words and a sticker sheet to reward your child.

The book is written for a US audience and there are minor lexical changes you might want to make. Also the book mentions items common in many people’s homes, you may find you need to rewrite some items (we don’t have a TV so I would scribble that out and write ‘radio’ for instance).

My daughter absolutely loved these hunts when she was about 4 years old and would often attempt to write her own. I loved that she was learning to read with minimal involvement from me!

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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

This is the story of Milo, a boy who is bored of the world, who understands nothing and is interested in even less. It is his magical journey through the fantasy lands of Wisdom and Ignorance to find Rhyme and Reason. The Phantom Tollbooth is often compared to The Wizard of Oz but perhaps better compared to Alice in Wonderland in its puns and word play. Very intelligent and very funny, it is regarded as a modern American classic. It was one of my favourite books as a child, I have just finished reading it to my daughter and I still love it. At 7 she didn’t pick up on all the allusions but it just gets better with every re-reading.

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If the World Were a Village

There are 6.7 billion people on this planet and when we try to talk about issues affecting people’s lives we can get lost in the numbers. But if we imagine the whole world as a village of just 100 people, it’s easier to understand.  That’s what this book does. It tells us that in this global village:

22 people speak Chinese

20 earn less than 65p a day

13 cannot read or write

only 34 always have enough to eat

25 have a TV in their homes

and much more.

The book looks at issues of education and economics, religion, languages, food distribution and energy use and puts this information in terms that are more easily understood.

An interesting factual book which will provide the basis of many discussions. Aimed at children it is in fact a book for everyone.

I’m recommending this for EFL for the rather flimsy reason that it has some nice uses of the 2nd conditional, it is not aimed at EFL and there is a lot of advanced vocabulary but with some changes it could be a useful, non-Anglo-centric, resource for more advanced conversation classes.

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Classic Myths to Read Aloud:

Why read ancient myths and legends to children? Because our culture refers to them all the time, they’ve inspired artists, poets, novelists, psychiatrists… Because in English we use words and phrases that have come from these stories e.g ‘fury’, ‘adonis’, ‘nemesis’, ‘the midas touch’, ‘the Trojan horse’, ‘the achilles’ heel’, ‘narcissism’, ‘oedipus complex’…Because they are very good stories.

There are lots of collections of Greek and Roman myths for children, you can buy illustrated versions and cartoon versions. You could read adult versions but you might find yourself hastily editing as you read. Or you could get this book which deals rather tastefully with all that sex and death, includes pronunciation guides for certain words within the text and follows each story with an afterword about the roots of English words and their origin in Greek or Latin.

It’s a lovely book.

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Listen to Your Child: A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Language

David Crystal is one of the best known and most prolific writers on linguistics. In this book he looks at children’s language acquisition from birth to early school years. Written for parents, it will will answer your questions and address your concerns.

The Reading Bug

How can you get a reluctant reader to read? What if you know nothing of the phonics they are taught in school? Paul Jennings has the answers. He’s a best selling author and teacher, and he knows what he’s talking about.

The Read-Aloud Handbook: Jim Trelease

When my daughter started to read independently I read to her less and less frequently. She was reading for herself anyway, she was quite happy going to bed with a pile of her favourite books and, to be really honest, I wasn’t particularly interested in her chosen books.

And then I read this.

Jim Trelease has written a well-researched, interesting book about the importance of regularly reading to children of all ages, from birth to…well, as long as you can really, I suppose it might be more difficult when they move out of home (but not impossible!).

Why read to kids? To inculcate a love of books, to give them an educational advantage, to teach vocabulary, empathy, life, the universe and everything.

This is an important book for parents and teachers everywhere.