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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Little Red Riding Hood

Retold by: Monica Hughes
Illustrator: Adrienne Salgado
Series: First Readers: Read Together Books for Marks & Spencer
Publisher: Exclusive Editions Ltd, 2007

I like many things about this First Readers book series, which has been carried by high-street retailer Marks & Spencer for the past ten or so years. I like the price of books in this series, as at £3 each (they might have gone up a little recently), this is pocket-money price for literature in the UK. The affordability of modern children's literature truly concerns me. We should be encouraging reading, not needing to incur a huge debt to brighten our children's bookshelf. 
Books for this age range should be cheap, and they should (my other concern in the wake of national library closures), be accessible. Marks and Spencer sell this range in even their smallest of high-street outposts, and I've also seen the older editions of the range on offer in the nationwide M&S outlets.  So First Readers are affordable, very accessible, and usually they are stocked on a nice rotating circular unit, which shows off a nice range of books in the selection- there's plenty of choice in the range.

First Readers are all based on traditional fairy-tales (so for example Little Red Riding Hood, as above, The Three Little Pigs, Puss in Boots etc) and they are retold very concisely (this range makes Ladybird seem incredibly wordy!).  On one side of the double page spread there are 5-8 very short sentences for the adult to read aloud, and a reminder sentence (a summary) on the accompanying page for the child to recall. Although the story itself does feel very 'snipped', all the elements of the tale are there, and the story flows appropriately. On this note, some of the tales work better than others; The Three Little Pigs is too condensed (no space for 'and by the hair on my chinny chin chin you can't come in!' catchphrase, but repetitive victor stories such as The Giant Turnip and The GingerBread Man, work well in this format.) The illustrations are okay: they're quite nonchalant but bright enough. 
The series 'follows the National Literacy Strategy'; the featured Little Red Riding Hood for example, credits reading consultants Betty Root and Monica Hughes. Thumbs up again for educational value, and certainly my three year old is managing to memorise and recall the story beautifully and engage in the two reading exercise pages at the back of each book. Edie loves the 'can you read the words?' game, as she has memorised the answers and uses the picture clues, likewise the 'answer questions' reading comprehension exercise, including very simple questions such as 'Where did Granny live?' These books support really good reading practice skills, which could be used, as I do, to help prepare the preschooler for reception year learning to read. 

My usual bugbear with fairy-tale retellings for this age range, is that they are so overly sanitised, but this First Readers Series, manoeuvres well endings that are not graphic but follow the original enough. In this version of Little Red Riding Hood for example, the wolf does swallow granny and red riding hood whole, but they jump out whole once the woodcutter arrives.

In all, a good, educational, affordable, accessible early years reading scheme; adequate choice in the range, authentic to the stories, 'no frills' narratives.     

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