Chez l'abeille

Culture. Travel. Writing. My world in words and pictures

A “Maverick” reading scheme? Yes please!


As a child I read everything and anything I could get my hands on and I can still vividly recall the moment I realised I was actually reading in my head! It was magical; words and pictures danced together, creating a perfect moment of pure story pleasure.

What I also remember is that I was very conscious of the existence of two types of books; the ones I chose for myself and the ones I had to read. The school reading books. The utterly boring and tedious activities of characters I had no interest or desire to know any more about, thank you! My Naughty Little Sister, Paddington Bear or Olga Da Polga would trump anything that Janet and John or Peter and Jane could offer me, any day.

“Literacy begins with immersion in an environment in which the skill is used in a purposeful, active, and meaningful way.”

Don Holdaway, “The Foundations of Literacy” (1979)

How could any reading scheme be purposeful, active and meaningful, when there were so many exciting books to explore and read? As a result, even as an experienced primary teacher, I have always been a tad suspicious of any reading scheme, no matter how “real book” they try to be.

I was curious, therefore, to have a closer look at the new “Early Readers” from Maverick Children’s Books. The idea behind this series is simple: to create reading books that support the transition from being a listener to being a reader. The resulting books have also been “banded” according to the Institute of Education’s book bands for guided reading, which provides clear guidance on the level of difficulty and reading skills needed. This is a big plus for me, as I frequently use the book bands in my advisory work with schools.

Working with their roster of established authors (including several SCBWI friends across the whole series), the purple band books are based on existing stories or characters, with which children may already be familiar. The established pairings of author and illustrator are also replicated, which again provides a sense of familiarity and high quality. In look and feel they have the same structure as a typical picture book with each one running to thirteen double page spreads. Illustrations and text work well together, although there is a greater separation of text and image on the page than is typically found in a picture book. This enhances the sense that they are a step up from a picture book  – they are instead books with great pictures! Yet there is still much to explore in the illustrations and I particularly liked Queen Fluff’s encounter with a rat in his underpants in “A Right Royal Mess”. 

As reading books these would be suitable for reading alone or in a guided group. Maverick have created useful activity packs for some of the books which can support the teaching of reading in a group activity or at home. For example a focus on specific consonant clusters is suggested if reading “The Jelly That Wouldn’t Wobble”, and key language features that can be used in writing, such as onomatopoeia are also featured. Yet they are not too schooly and I think they would be equally welcome as a shared bedtime story.

Each story comes with a quiz at the end, which can be used to support recall of key information. If I were to suggest one thing to strengthen this section of the book, it would be a greater focus on inference. Some questions do provide a “think about” element such as “Why does nobody want to help the Grizzly? in “The Great Grizzly Race., but there is only one answer. More open-ended questions could provide greater challenge and opportunities to develop skills of being able to “answer questions and make some inferences on the basis of what is being said and done” (End of KS1 expected standard).

For me, each book works well as a complete story, bringing the sense of satisfaction that comes from active engagement in a well written picture book. For a transitional reader the overall reading experience would be supportive, yet one of moving on to something more challenging. In Don Holdaway’s words, they are definitely purposeful and meaningful.

So am I converted? I have to say I am.

©Chez l’abeille  2017

Disclaimer: I was invited to review the Maverick Early Reader books by the publisher who provided copies of three purple band books.
I have received no compensation for doing this piece and all opinions are my own.


3 thoughts on “A “Maverick” reading scheme? Yes please!

  1. You fotgot the ‘ona’… 😉 Yes, yes it was! LOVED that. Bronia – a name I wanted to donate to my daughter (well, for a while anyway. It got superceded. Several times.). Apologies for all th typos and dreadful sentence structure in the above. I was typing against the clock and all grammatical elegance went out of the window along with proper typing and a spellcheck.


  2. Thanks Fi. Was it The Silver Sword by Ian Serailler?


  3. A subject close to my heart – you describe my learnign to read process so accurately along with the let down of the school reading books. However, looking back I realise I was at either a progressive/trendy primary school (unlikely!) or it was progressive/trendy times (in least in London!) as by Junior school once it was obvious we were reading freely we could literally read anything we like. And I did! I remember absolutely DEVOURING every single Andrew Lang Fairytale Book (all those colours!) that we had in the school library, the Narnia books (only enjoyed the first, but I persevered non-the less),an amazing book by Ian Serrailer (can;t remember the title) and countless others that I have now forgotten but loved intensely at the time. From the public library I became personal freinds with the Anne of Green Gable books, the Little Women series and many, many more. By teh age of 7 there was no holding me back and, thank goodness, none my teachers ever even tried! I’m not a teaqcher like you, so I can only see the joy and pleasure of reading what you want when you want, rather than the conumdrum of ensuring a pupil is progressing at the right place. I do remember in the days when I flirted somewhat unsucessfully wiht teaching that again, the school I was placed at had a scheme which just graded ‘real’ books, so you could read whatever you like within a set grade (or above!) Much less limiting..Any reading scheme seems an anathema to me, buit clearly some are better than others! Anyway, great piece – loved it!

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