Sunday, 4 March 2012

Mighty Machines

Mighty Machines (Ready to Read) by Sarah Creese, designed by Karen Morrison (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $6.99
ISBN 9781742831190
Reviewed by Dawn Meredith

Part of the new ‘Ready to Read’ series, this book has instant appeal, with its 3D cover of monster sized trucks, tractors and heavy machinery – all things boys in particular love! Of course there’s no reason why girls wouldn’t be interested too. I can see the series being used as a starting point for projects and posters for the classroom. They’d also be fabulous for dads to read with their children.

According to the blurb, ‘Ready to Read combines simple words and sentences with amazing photographs to provide inspiring first reading books that children will love to read together, read with help – and read alone!’

Pre-Level 1’s objectives are: first words, word repetition and ABC’s. Level 1 – beginning to read, simple sentences & sight words, Level 2 – reading alone, longer sentences, fact boxes, Level 3 – reading proficiency, richer vocabulary, paragraphs & short chapters.

As a teacher I am quite excited to see how my struggling readers will take to them. There are good, solid tips for parents in the ‘Reading Together’ section inside the front cover, such as text understanding, looking at pictures and quiz pages. At the end of the book there’s a comprehension section called ‘What do you know?’ and further ideas page with dictionary and key words ideas.

I think the concept is wonderful and much needed. There are only a couple of niggles about this title in particular – the rhyming scheme is not consistent. It doesn’t quite scan properly, making it a little difficult to ‘get’ the rhythm from one page to the next. I know it’s a tall order and the author, Sarah Creese, has done a great job keeping the interest level high, but this does present a problem if learning about rhyme is one of the objectives. In the other titles, listed below, the rhyme is fine and Extreme Animals doesn’t use rhyme in its text.

The other tiny niggle is the phonemic complexity of some of the context words – they are above the skill level of a beginning reader. Examples are: tough, haul, demolition, buildings, certainly. Although the aim of level 1 doesn’t appear to be independent reading, one has to consider how these books will be used in the classroom. They will be put in the level 1 box and children will assume they can read them alone. There would in all likelihood not be an adult to sit with. The text is in large font, suggesting year a reading age of 6-7 years, but I have put this series at an independant reading age of 8 years, as the beginning reader would require some assistance with these words.

Notwithstanding these issues, I am very impressed with the series and eager to get these appealing books into the hot little hands of my reluctant readers! Well done to Sarah Creese for tackling a wide variety of subject matter, which is sure to grab the attention of the beginning reader.

Other titles include:
Dangerous Dinos (Ready to Read) ISBN 9781742831213 with truly scary photographs and drawings,
Slithering Snakes (Ready to Read) ISBN 9781742831176 with gorgeous coloured snakes,
Sharks (Ready to Read) ISBN 9781742831206 with ferocious teeth and weird looking heads,
Bugs (Ready to Read) ISBN 9781742831183 (my favourite) with beautiful close-up photos of interesting bugs of all shapes and colours and
Extreme Animals (Ready to Read) ISBN 9781742831169 with everything from spiders to elephants.

Dawn Meredith is a Special Education Teacher and children’s author in the Blue Mountains. She was awarded a May Gibbs Fellowship 2011. Her new book, The Anything Shop was launched October 2011. See here for details:  

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