Magazine article English Drama Media

Choosing and Using Fiction and Non-Fiction 3-11

Magazine article English Drama Media

Choosing and Using Fiction and Non-Fiction 3-11

Article excerpt

Choosing and Using Fiction and Non-fiction 3-11

Margaret Mallet

Routledge, 2010, 95 [pounds sterling]

ISBN 978-1-84312-322-4


Margaret Mallett has set herself an ambitious project in this title and has produced a generous book that is both scholarly and practical. Given its scope, the book is easy to navigate and is the kind of volume that will provide good value for the lunchtime reader with only a little time to spare as well as the teacher or student who is wishing to devote some thought to finding out about books for children. In three hundred and ninety two pages the author has drawn on her wealth of experience to provide for the reader lists of children's books, ideas for working with books and for assessing children's progress, examples of classroom practice, and an excellent reference list for those wishing to pursue ideas further. She has also found room for particular projects, research and points of view which make this book both thought-provoking and a great inspiration for planning. I shall begin by writing a little about the organisation of the book because this is something that makes the book both accessible and rich in possibilities. It is divided into two parts: fiction and 'children's non-fiction literature'. The section on fiction includes chapters on picture books, play scripts, poetry and a range of fiction, including genre fiction, realism, animal stories, traditional tales and longer stories.

Each chapter is designed with a similar structure: an introduction to the form; sometimes, but not always, criteria for choosing; considerations and recommendations for each of three age groups (3-5, 5-8, 8-11); ideas for using books; a section on recording and assessing progress and an itemised summary of the chapter.

Each chapter is interspersed with boxes of text or illustration which perform three different functions. There are annotated lists of recommended books for children and some illustrations of front covers or artwork; there are boxes which contain children's and teachers' comments, or other ideas about text that are often thought-provoking; and there are examples of how books have been used in the classroom, often with examples of children's work. These inserts are clearly marked with borders or shading and I hope that you can see how these are useful for quick reference. They enhance rather than detract from the main body of the text and can be read independently, like a snippet from a newspaper which provides food for thought. One box, for example, juxtaposes Christopher Booker's seven basic plots with Neil Philip's view that it is not plot but metaphor that is the essence of fiction. Thus, a seed is planted.

What is clear is that Mallett is not only a committed reader but that she wishes children to understand the pleasures and rewards of reading widely. The suggestions for 'using' the books affirm, despite that word, the pleasures and processes of reading and while there is a recognition of the need for a meta-language when talking about texts, the emphasis is on creative and organic responses rather than a more mechanical emphasis on spotting literary devices or even analysis of plot or character.

Mallett celebrates the value of talk, drama, artwork and writing in response to shared texts. The activities she suggests draw on the thinking of those, like Aidan Chambers, Eve Bearne, Margaret Meek and the CLPE team, for example, who share a view of reading as a pleasurable and life-enhancing activity and who recognise the symbiotic relationship between reading and writing, writing and reading. …

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