One of the best parts about working in our schools’ publishing team at Oxford University Press is being able to talk to teachers, hearing what would help to make a difference to their teaching and learning, and then working out ways in which we can support them with that. Over the past few years, we have heard more and more requests for books to help less-confident readers in secondary schools; books with age-appropriate topics and ideas but that are more accessible; books that will inspire children who might not enjoy reading, or who might have a low reading age, to grow to love reading.
And we’ve also heard from recent research that teachers are worried about the word gap. The Oxford Language Report: Why Closing the Word Gap Matters (2018) looked at the impact of a widening word gap and found that, on average, secondary school teachers who took part in the survey reported that 43% of Year 7 pupils have a limited vocabulary to the extent that it affects their learning, whilst 95% of secondary school teachers believe a lack of time spent reading for pleasure is a root cause of the word gap. More recently, the follow up report, Bridging the Word Gap at Transition (2020), found that 92% of teachers surveyed think recent school closures have contributed to a widening of the word gap, and 87% agree that increasing academic requirements as pupils move from primary to secondary education highlight pupils’ struggles with vocabulary. In addition, they feel that pupils may have read less widely for pleasure during lockdown.
Knowing all of this meant that we were absolutely delighted when the opportunity came along to partner with Barrington Stoke, the experts in commissioning and editing accessible fiction, to create a brand new range for less-confident 11-14 year old readers: Super-Readable Rollercoasters. And we were even more thrilled to attract some of the very best children’s authors, each of whom is hugely passionate about writing accessible fiction and about opening up the world of books and reading to as many children as possible. So Super-Readable Rollercoasters brings together Anthony McGowan, Patrice Lawrence, Phil Earle and Michael Wagg, Sally Nicholls, Marcus Sedgwick and Tanya Landman.
We are confident that each title in this exciting new range is perfect for teachers to use in the classroom, or for children to read independently. We’ve carefully selected stories that we know will grab readers’ attention, will link with other areas of the curriculum, and will help them to start making connections with other books they may have read. So the titles range from powerful historical tales of friendship and loyalty, to gripping contemporary stories of bullying, loneliness and growing up; and each focuses on relevant themes and issues that will resonate with 11+ readers. And we’ve made sure that the books are rich in plot, setting, language and structure so that they justify their inclusion for classroom study.
On top of that, each title has been edited to remove any barriers to comprehension and then carefully laid out in Barrington Stoke’s dyslexia-friendly font to make it as accessible as possible. We also know that reading stamina can be an issue for some less-confident readers, and that finishing a whole book can be hugely motivating. Each Super-Readable Rollercoaster title is shorter in length than you perhaps might expect from a book for this age group, which enables readers to build their confidence while engaging in a gripping, well-told story that will guarantee an enjoyable reading experience.
A teacher resource pack is available for schools to download for free to support the teaching of these titles within the classroom. Plus, to help readers get even more from each title insights, including information about the author, the context and book group questions, are provided at the back of each book.
Super-Readable Rollercoasters are an exciting way to help close the word gap and support young people in developing a love of reading with titles that have been specifically written to help build confidence, make reading enjoyable, and enthuse 11+ readers.
Katie Lowe is Publisher for Secondary English at Oxford University Press
More information about Super-Readable Rollercoasters can be found at www.oxfordsecondary.com/superreadable
To find out more about the Oxford Language Report go to oxford.ly/wordgap
Super-Readable Rollercoasters launch books, £7.99 pbk:
I Am The Minotaur, 978-0198494874, the latest title from Anthony McGowan following his 2020 Carnegie Medal win, showcases his trademark empathy for the underdog in this gritty yet touching story of a lonely teenage carer’s struggles with growing up and trying to fit in.
Edgar & Adolf, 978-0198494911, by Phil Earle and Michael Wagg is a story with friendship at its core. This fictional tale of two real-life footballing heroes has been written by real-life friends who offer a new perspective on the Second World War from both the German and British point of view.
Rat, 978-0198494935, by Patrice Lawrence begins with Al’s quest for revenge following his mum’s return to prison but unfolds into a moving story of community and loneliness, and is a reminder that you never quite know what is going on in someone else’s life.