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Early Skills in Reading and Listening

13th Sep 19

A new series of books focused on reading and listening skills aims to support young children in developing independent thinking skills and enthusiasm for reading. Find out more about the newly launched QED Essentials series.

Download the PDF, below, to see all available titles in the QED Essentials series.

Here, the publisher explains how the series has been designed to support KS1 children in reading, listening, speaking and writing.

Q: Why did you decide to create the Let's Read / Let's Talk QED Essentials series?

A: We wanted to create an exciting new series introducing key social, emotional and academic skills to help prepare children for Reception and support their journey through Early Years, KS1 and beyond.

The aim of the series is to stimulate the imagination and develop children's confidence as they begin to talk, read, listen, write and develop independent thinking skills while also instilling an enthusiasm for reading and a life-long love of books.

The series is unique because of its skills-based approach, supported with targeted activities at the end of each book to support the development of these key skills.

Q: The books are non-fiction rather than fiction, why did you feel it was important for children to be offered these books? What can non fiction texts contribute to children developing as readers / speakers?

A: We plan on publishing fiction titles as well, but we chose to start with non-fiction books to launch the series and provide an accessible way into reading. We think that the non-fiction books are important because they encourage children to explore a range of narratives and images in a way which increases their understanding and broadens their learning outcomes.

Non-fiction texts covering familiar topics can stimulate the imagination and build children's confidence as they begin to explore and practice essential speaking and reading skills needed to secure their development. Many children respond well to seeing their own world reflected around them and non-fiction allows us to show bold, fresh photographs that will give children lots to discuss and therefore more opportunities to develop their vocabulary.

Q: Can you tell us how you have chosen the subject matter for each book eg Dressing Up, Forest Fun, Wheels?

A: Using feedback from teachers and our literacy experts, we decided upon four key topics: animals, the world, around me and hobbies. There is one book per topic in each of the Let's Talk and Let's Read strands. The books in each strand cover a range of popular topics that children of today can relate to, encouraging an interest in the world around the child and supporting familiarisation of specific subjects. We carefully selected topics that would enable us to use exciting images.

Q: What are you aiming to create in each book?

A: We wanted to provide interesting and engaging books with new and creative activities for young children to enjoy. The series has been created with current literacy thinking at its heart and we hope that the books help children to develop literacy and reading comprehension skills to expand their vocabulary and use new words in context. A central aim of the series is to encourage children to develop their vocabulary through the activities. Each book offers practice, motivation and confidence building strategies to support a children's reading progression.

Here's an overview of each strand:

Let's Talk
Encourages discussion and vocabulary building through spoken language. Activities include picture/word matching, sounding out Common Exception Words, speech rhythm activities and identifying key words and letter sounds.

Let's Read
Children take their first steps to becoming independent readers. Activities include picture/word matching, identifying key vocabulary words and Common Exception Words, using words in sentences of their own and practising simple retrieval skills.

Let's Listen
Slightly longer texts to build reading stamina and prompt young readers to use simple skimming and scanning techniques and answer questions. Activities will help children to understand words in context, sequence information, come up with their own descriptions and explanations, and develop key speaking and listening skills.

Let's Write
Children's writing skills improve when they are given exemplary model texts. Activities in the Let's Write strand include tasks to broaden their vocabulary and practise inferential and prediction skills - as well as opportunities to write their own captions, descriptions and responses based on the text.

Let's Think
Children's thinking skills improve as they are given the opportunity to form their own opinions. Activities include using information to investigate different topics, comparing and contrasting text and images, answering open-ended questions and exploring the choices authors have made in how they present information.

Q: What level are you aiming the text at, in terms of children's reading abilities?

A: The series takes a child from a beginner reader to a confident independent reader through five themed levels. Each book has been levelled using Book Bands to build confidence in response to demand from teachers.

The Let's Talk books are aimed at pre-school children aged 3+ (Pink / Red banding); Let's Read are for reception children aged 4+ (Red / Yellow banding); Let's Listen are for year 1 children aged 5/6 (Blue / Green / Orange banding); Let's Write at years 1-2 children aged 6 (Orange / Turquoise / Purple / Gold) and Let's Think are for children in year 2, aged 7 (White / Lime banding).

Q: Can you tell us how you wanted the books to be presented?

A: We have used clear, easy-to-read fonts presented in a simple layout to support young readers. The books feature short, decodable sentences and they repeat topic words and commonly used words.

Our writing team has a broad range of experience in the children's primary literacy market. QED Essentials authors have backgrounds in writing for OUP, Collins Big Cat, Ladybird, Macmillan and Reading Planet. The books have been written to help children expand their vocabulary as well as support Letters and Sounds and expectations of the EYFS and Primary National Curriculum.

They also include SATs style questions in preparation for the end of KS1 requirements to allow children to practice appropriate skills regularly. They also involve discreet inclusion of Key Stage 1 Content Domains to reinforce learning outcomes. Every book gives practice in using and learning Common Exception Words, High Frequency/Tricky words and is correlated to the phases of Letters and Sounds.

Q: Can you explain how the Let's Talk books are designed to support children's reading?

A: The Let's Talk books encourage discussion and vocabulary building through spoken language. The colourful and appealing narratives are followed by targeted activities to help children hone key literacy skills. Supporting adults can work through these activities with young readers to support reading and comprehension. Activities include picture/word matching, sounding out Common Exception Words, speech rhythm activities and identifying key words and letter sounds.

We worked with an expert Literacy Consultant, Helen Marron, during the planning and production stages of the QED Essentials series. Helen has worked as an educational advisor for the past six years, specialising in EYFS and KS1 English. She has extensive classroom teaching experience and provides a range of support and advisory services to schools and other organisations within the education sector.

Q: Why did you decide to use photographic images in these books?

A: We wanted to produce a fresh, contemporary design and therefore chose colourful, eye-catching, thought-provoking and entertaining images to open up further discussion points. For these non-fiction books, we felt it was important for children to actually see what they are learning about rather than just an artist's vision of it.

Q: How do you envisage the Let's Talk, Let's Read books being used in homes / the classroom?

A: We envisage that the books could be used for home and school use. They have been created to compliment other reading schemes and be interesting enough to be returned to at both home and school and used for topic work as well as reading practise.

QED Essentials is a great series for parents to use with their children because of the level of support which is aimed at non-specialist practitioners. Each book includes stimulating activities, games and questions at the back to explore after reading which are ideal for home or classroom use. The notes for parents and teachers support home learning and include handy reading tips to help adults support children as they read together.

QED Essentials is a supplementary series which means that it can be used alongside other schemes. The skills-based approach means that it will complement any schemes already being used in schools. Each book is levelled to show progression and has been book banded to show teachers how these books can fit in alongside existing schemes.

Q: How do you plan to develop the series further?

A: We're really excited to received feedback from teachers and parents and would love to fill topic gaps that teachers are looking for and welcome any suggestions!

We plan on publishing the first four titles in the Let's Listen, Let's Write and Let's Think strands in 2020. Then, the intention is to expand the series by publishing fiction titles over the course of the coming three years, and to broaden the series in conjunction with market demand. As a complete series it will give plenty of content to take children from beginner to fully independent reader.

We're passionate about encouraging children to read for pleasure and hope this series will inspire and support young readers.

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