It was Jan Mark’s little book about Rats that made me more seriously aware of the importance of good information texts in children’s learning about the world and how to read about it. In my role as books editor of the School Librarian, I was glad that subject experts reviewed topic books, and content that my grandchildren could read them without help. Margaret Mallett was already prominent in reviewing the books of the ‘information explosion’. She was the non-fiction expert who sought equality for this genre of children’s books with the stories and novels that were, and are, children’s literature. My revised understanding of the scope of non-fiction writing came with the 48th chapter in Peter Hunt’s International Companion Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature, where MM discusses ‘interactive texts’, those that encourage question and debate, and their importance in children’s growth as readers.
In the Preface to her recent encyclopedian study of children’s early literacy and the books that are to replace the necessary, but often too exigent, school Method of learning to read, Margaret tells her desired readers – teachers and student teachers are those she has in mind – that ‘over 1000 children’s texts and resources are referred to in this book’. The key strands in Chapter 2 will direct readers to their personal interests. To those who share her passion for reading, this study will give them much to consider. The pages owe some aspects to screen designing. Few authors have taken such care to offer their readers the glossaries and illustrations that are part of this, important advanced and complex book. Each section is summarized. Figures are annotated lists of examples. Reviews of children’s books are in Boxes. Case Studies are vignettes of classroom approaches to different kinds of reading.
This book is about making readers. A compact summary of its contents would not do it justice. It is the account of a life’s work; it deserves thanks and readers.