CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 35 . . . . May 11, 2012
Let’s Play Hockey. (Let’s Play).
New York, NY: AV²/Weigl (Distributed in Canada by Saunders Book Co.), 2012.
24 pp., hardcover, $25.70.
Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.
Review by Keith McPherson.
Let’s Play Hockey is one volume in the series of “Let’s Play” information books exploring six different sports: Hockey, Baseball, Basketball, Football, Martial Arts, and Soccer. Written for five and six-year-olds (Kindergarten, 100-220 lexile level), the books are 24 pages long, contain full-colour, double-page photographs and one to three sentences (13 to 15 words total) revealing how a young athlete gets ready to play the sport, where the athletes play, the equipment they use, and what they learn while doing the sport.
Let’s Play Hockey contains a simple table of contents, large bold page numbers and text (approximately 36 point Arial-type font), and a list of sight and content words with page numbers where each word first appeared. These features will not only help parents, teachers and teacher-librarians teach five to seven-year-old children basic information skills, but the lists of sight and content words can be used to determine how much preloading of content words may need to be accomplished, and/or what level of sight words need to be in place, for children to read the book independently.
Let’s Play Hockey also contains current, vivid, action photographs that directly support the printed text. These images flow across, and completely fill, the majority of each two-page spread. Many of these large photographs are of five to seven-year-old children playing or getting ready to play the game outdoors and indoors, with one smaller overlaid image depicting young adult or adult hockey players in various stages preparing for, or playing, the game. Children will easily identify with the same-age children in the large pictures, a connection which, in turn, may help children become more interested in learning to skate and play hockey. Images of professional games may also help activate background knowledge as the children recognize the game as something they may have watched on TV or experienced in person with their families.
Two of the last three pages contains a two-page spread listing additional detail on nine facts presented earlier in the book. These additional facts have a much higher readability than those in the first twenty-one pages. Strong five and six-year-old readers, and most seven and eight-year-olds, will be able to access these nine facts, whereas the average five-year-old will need to have large portions of the book read out loud. Teachers or parents can also use these facts to ‘dazzle’ all listeners with their hockey knowledge ‘prowess’ (i.e., the word hockey comes from the French word “hoquet” which means “shepherd’s crook”).
Although this information book can be used a standalone text, the publisher has also incorporated ‘media enhanced features’. To access these features, you must use an Internet-capable computer to visit one of the publisher’s web pages (www.av2books.com) designed to make connections with the book Let’s Play Hockey. Once at this web page, the reader enters a code listed on page two of the printed book, which, in turn, generates a skill testing question that is answered from information gleaned from the book. Although a small number of five and six-year-old readers may have difficulty following these instructions, those who persist or who obtain assistance from more capable Internet users, will gain access to online features such as: interactive activities, information videos, slide shows, a ‘key word vocabulary activity’, and a hockey quiz.
It is exciting to see publishers beginning to weave more connections between print and digitized Internet media, as this is a format and place from which many North American children are obtaining information and learning to read. The following is a list of five key strengths and five key challenges that this site provides in regards to enhancing the reading and learning experience around the printed copy of Let’s Play Hockey.
Website contains some images and text taken directly from the book. This provides strong contextual clues for book or print-based learners and readers to access web-based digital multimedia communication and information.
An audio clip allows non-readers and aural learners to access information on page 22 of the book.
Two video clips provide additional visual comprehensible input into what it means to practice hockey.
Video clips are of children at the same age as the intended readers.
Children will find some of the activities engaging.
Without warning, some links take you to content that fall outside of the publisher’s website (e.g., nhl.com for kids).
One of the two videos has advertising at the beginning of the clip.
May not be clear that the numbered blue buttons on the left are directly related to page numbers in the book.
Some activities and games are no more than online worksheets.
Readability of online information is well above the readability of the text and thus 5- and 6-year-olds will require assistance from more capable readers (e.g., “Drag the text that best matches the image to the empty box. Click the right arrow to access the next question).
Let’s Play Hockey is one book in a series of six information books that can easily fit into a parent’s or classroom’s program geared towards introducing their child or children to information literacy skills. The book’s links to the Internet also provides relatively controlled opportunities to begin developing children’s online information literacy and multimodal communication skills (e.g., not just reading information but also viewing and listening to information). Although the very worksheet-structure of the online activities and the limited audio and video make the website less than engaging, this book can be easily used as standalone resource for promoting reading, basic information literacy skills, and for developing 5- to 6-year-old’s early understandings of, and interests towards, the sport of hockey.
Keith McPherson has been an elementary teacher and teacher-librarian in BC since 1984, and is currently a lecturer for the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C.
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