Teaching a child to read is an essential part of their academic development. In the UK, alongside DVDs, CDs and worksheets, decodable phonetics are now widely used as teaching aids in schools and kindergartens. The Follifoot Farm book collection published by Jelly and Bean is decodable and written to be compatible with phases two through six of Letters and Sounds. They are used in a number of schools in the UK and Japan (where English is taught as a second language).
There are six new books in the Early Bird Combinations series by Follifoot Farm. Each book is written and illustrated by respected author Marlene Greenwood, who has written over 110 phonic books in her Jelly and Bean and Follifoot Farm collections. The Early Vowel Combinations book series is aimed at children at the end of the intake year/beginning of the foundation phase, usually around the ages of 5 and 6 (although it is always better to teach by ability than by age). This particular series is in the late phase 3 of Letters and Sounds, introducing some elements from phase 4. Teaching vowel combinations to a young age group is crucial, especially as the English language often has multiple pronunciations for a single vowel combination.
The characters of Follifoot Farm (cats “Jelly” and “Bean”) will be well known to teachers and children who have read previous publications of the first phase of “Letters and Sounds”. Book one is entitled “The Bee Sting” and begins with the line “One day Bean sees a bee crawling into a broken flower pot.” The main vowel graphemes in this sentence are “ay” (day), “ea” (bean) and “ee” (sees).
As the story progresses, the great illustrations help children understand the words they are reading. Bean the cat watches and chases a bee through the garden and when it settles on a flower pot he decides to catch it. The cat makes several unsuccessful attempts before finally being stung by the bee. The last page shows the cat in pain as the bite stays in its paw.
There are 8 pages in Book 1, each beautifully illustrated. The story is written in such a way that the child will not understand that vowel graphemes are being taught. Reading is therefore more of a pleasure than a chore. Greenwood has written another collection of books that really hit the mark. As engaging as they are educational, it seems this new collection will be a winner with its already loyal clientele.
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