Marshall Cavendish Benchmark publishes BookWorms – series intended for the beginning readers. There are three levels: emergent, early and fluent. Today I’m packing up 3 series to send River Valley Elementary. We Go! is the set for Emergent readers. Safe Kids is for Early readers. Nature’s Cycles is for Fluent readers.
We Go! for emerging readers has an individual title for Buses, Cars, Trucks, Trains, Planes, and Boats. There are two pages at the back of the book with unique words of these titles and their corresponding pictures. The list is in alphabetical order but contains a thumbnail of the same picture that is on the corresponding page in the book. I expected the words to know would have had an arrow identifying what part of the picture contains the noun indicated. For example in the title Trains, one word specified in rail cars. The sentence is "Trains have rail cars." The photograph contains a beautiful scenic picture of a train including the engine. There is no arrow showing which are the rail cars, so a child could mistakenly believe the engine is also a rail car. In the words at the back, we see the same picture and the word Rail cars. I don’t see any purpose of putting the words in the back with nothing distinguishing them from the main text except the fact that they are alphabetical. Since this series is for emergent readers, an adult with have to point out the part of the picture that corresponds to the text as they read.
While I expect kindergartners will read this series, an adult needs to read with them. The photograph for Cars with the text "Cars have hoods." shows an engine. Yes, there is a hood raised to the left, but it is cropped and not fully visible. There is nothing to indicate that it is the hood and the young children I tried this title with pointed to the engine when I asked where the hood was.
I’m sure that I am being very picky today, but I am bothered when statements are made that are misleading to the youngest readers. It seems the publishers want to keep the word count low and simple, so they reduce sentences to the barest concept. Sometimes this leads to false ideas. In the book Planes, there is a picture of a seaplane landing on water. The sentence says "Planes go on water." The sentence should say "Some planes go on water" or "Seaplanes go on water." Any child who watches television knows that MOST planes do NOT go on water. Remember watching passengers in NYC standing on the wing of a plane that landed in the water?
Safe Kids by Dana Meachen Rau
Safety on the Go
Safety at Home
These books are targeted for grades K-2 and are listed as early readers. I’m much happier with this series for young readers. There are more content specific words. The reader will be challenged more. Most pages give a safety rule and a simple explanation as to what could happen if the rule isn’t followed. For example Safety on the Go includes these two sentences "Always wear a helmet. Helmets protect your head if you fall."
The series for fluent readers is Nature’s Cycles including:
Day And Night
Intended for grades 1-2, these topics match typical first grade topics while providing enough of a reading challenge to appeal to early second grade readers. This is my favorite of the three series do to the depth of writing and correlation to the curriculum.
The sample chains in the book Food Chains are not very in-depth. For example, here is the text for two pages in Food Chains: "Look at a food chain in a pond. A fish eats plants. An alligator eats the fish. When the alligator dies, it falls to the bottom. When it decays, it helps new plants to grow."
The explanation for the water cycle is much better in the book Water. The first few pages give an overall view of the water cycle. Then the remaining pages expand upon this. The Plants title contained a surprisingly large amount of information for a fluent reader title and would be good for second graders also. The Day And Night title would make a good read-aloud for small groups in kindergarten in addition to fluent readers self-choice. The Seasons title contains a large amount of information and would make a good K title, too.
The title Animals is very well-written for young readers and a good choice for the K-3 curriculum on Living Things. I particularly like the photograph of the male and female peacocks on the page on mating. Here is the text:
A male and female greet each other. They might do a dance. They might show off. Then they mate. Mating is making more babies.
One aspect of Marshall Cavendish Benchmark’s series that I like is that they have printable Teacher’s Guides available from the website. While these 3 series’ guides are not yet online (they are 2010 copyrights), the indexing shows me that they will soon have them. Current teacher’s guides are available here.