It can be quite difficult to find "real reading" material for those who are working hard through the Foundation Levels of TRT. They can read the decodable sentences but, if they're not flying towards the Advanced Levels, it's important that they have something to read that is all of: possible, challenging and age-appropriate. Here are my two favourite solutions for two very different age groups.
Several years ago, the local youth offending team asked me to work with Mark. All they could give me was an hour a day for 2 weeks. Mark was 12 and I was his only educational provision that year.
Within a few minutes of meeting this cheeky, friendly boy, it became apparent that he couldn’t spell hat. We worked and worked and worked through building with charts and puzzle pieces and writing on the TRT boards. Where we would normally spell 3 words at Level 2, Mark needed at least 20 and he loved organising the words taking charge of the boards.
During the second week, we started reading Star Quest, a marvellous book for our “younger older strugglers” (year 6 or 7). Mark really struggled to blend the sounds “p” “l” “i” “b” to get the name of the character, Plib. And when he finally did it, we both stood up and cheered.
But the best moment came when we started reading about “glimyubbers”. I had assumed it would be a word that I would just give him because The Deal in That Reading Thing is that you never have to know anything we haven’t learned together – and we hadn’t yet covered the long i sound in glimy-ubbers. I must have said it a few times before he countered with, “That’s not how you say it! It’s glim-yubbers!”
And he was right! And I loved that he was right – this boy who didn’t get on at school, who couldn’t spell hat only a few days before. I hope he’s been right many times since then. I will always remember Mark and the glimyubbers very fondly.
Star Quest and the other books in the "Quest" series are out of print but widely available used from online sellers. Cheap and wonderful for younger older strugglers.
Random Acts of Kindness – 365 ways to make the world a nicer place
This book is especially marvellous for older strugglers who think they can't read anything and have been out in the world a bit. I wish there was an up to date version as some of the stories - like the one about putting 20 p pieces in the phone box - won't be familiar to our readers.
Most of the text is large and the sentences short but meaningful. There's lots of opportunity to have discussions such as "What would happen if you offered a gift to a stranger?"
My favourite anecdote is about the learner who, when given the book to read one of the large print sentences, started to read the much longer story in much smaller print and just kept going. Both tutor and learner were equally surprised and delighted.