Monday, September 15, 2014

Gold Stars Work Books - Review

The Alphabet Wall Chart that comes with the book

At Britmums Live, back in June, I was approached to review one of the Gold Stars books. These have especially designed to deal with the "summer learning loss", or in other words, the fact that children forget some of the stuff they learnt at school during the summer holidays, which concerns some teachers. It doesn't really concern me, and my son hadn't started school yet, and the title "Gold Stars" put me off considerably as it makes me think of a system of rewards and punishments, which regular readers will know I am quite opposed to (see Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn if you want to know why).

Having worked with Parragon for a while now, I know that they appreciate honesty when it comes to reviews. Just to be sure though, I spoke with the person giving them out, letting her know that this might not be the right sort of product for us. Still, I was assured that real, honest reviews by a range of people with differing views and backgrounds was what they were looking for. At first we were given a book entitled "Starting to Add", but as BB was not even three yet and was only just starting to recognise numbers in their written form, I felt that was a bit ambitious, so we swapped it for Starting to Write



When I got home I looked at the book. I decided I needed to ignore the Gold Star Reward for finishing a page (we could use the stars for something creative instead) and look at what the book did have to offer us. Many parents like to give their kids a gold star too, and if you are one of those, you can of course use them as they were intended.

Firstly there is a lovely wall chart in the front. I really like this. It has both upper case and lower case letters on which is a great addition to our resources. We have a Tidy Books book shelf which has all the lower case letters, and a full set of capital letters that go in the bath, but this is our first item that presents both the upper and lower case together. It also has some excellent images for each letter - by that I mean they are things that make sense to BB, that he knows. This is now on the side of a kitchen cupboard, at BB height.

The challenge we were set was to do one page of this 30 page book for each day of the school holidays. I guess that could be a nice idea for some learners - for others it will be the last thing they want to do in their holidays. Our book however is still untouched, not because I was rebelling against school, but because its actually beyond what BB is capable of right now. It states that it is designed for pre-schoolers, and I guess towards the end of preschool it would probably be fine.  BB doesn't yet have the pen control to perform the tasks or copy the words that are in the book - or any reason to see why you would want to do this. If I tried to work on the book with him, which I did consider, solely for the purpose of this review, I think he would just draw freely on it. I really don't think he would get the idea that he is supposed to be copying words and patterns. Maybe later though - I'll keep it on the shelf for when he does fancy something like this.

Just to give you a bit more idea of what you might find inside, here are a few images.

The First Page - drawing on the dotted lines and then copying it below. 

Instructions and notes for parents are included at the bottom of the page

A page toward the back - Tracing and then copying a small word and knowing that names start with capital letters

Without a doubt there are lots of tasks in these books which resemble tasks commonly performed in early years classrooms.  They could be a great way for parents to work with their children at any time of the year, and may help children to remember some of the stuff they learned in school. They are reasonably priced, and can be purchased from Amazon, and in Sainsbury's, WH Smith, Morrison's and more places nationwide.

Disclaimer: This book was received free of charge for the purpose of this review as part of the Parragon Book Buddies Program. All opinions are our own.
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