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There is a theory among many home educators that if you surround a child with books from birth, and provide a good selection of high quality easy to read material, that children will learn to read without any instruction. I think this is likely true in some cases, but with most children, some instruction is still a good idea. But I do think reading to a child from infancy, having a wide variety of quality books available and just making books a part of the fabric of everyday life will make learning to read much easier. I think children who really love books, and are constantly surrounded by books are far less likely to experience reading difficulties.
This book is part of an American series of graded readers; " I Can Read". The series was created in 1957 in response to a librarians request for books children could read themselves. It is very similar to the Dr. Seuss "I Can Read It All By Myself Beginner Books Series", but this series includes books at higher reading levels as well. Because they only have 4 levels though, you will not find them quite as predictable as Oxford Reading Tree in terms of reading level. I would put this on a level 7 or 8 with Oxford.
This book was originally purchased for my oldest son, now age 7. I bought this for him to read himself, and I did find it an excellent resource in developing his confidence as a reader. I believe he first read this at age 5 or 6, but I did notice he struggled a bit more than he did with other books in the same series, at the same level. I believe this was due to the use of white text on various coloured backgrounds, and I did notice him squinting a few times. He has no problem with it now, but his reading has progressed in leaps and bounds and he is very confident reader now. I have no problem reading the inversely coloured text, but then this is a very short text for an adult to read. I wouldn't like to read pages of it.
Other than the colour of the text, this is an easy book to read. Most pages only have 2 -3 sentences and the majority of the words, except for the odd one like "Oscorps" will be familiar to most young readers. The American public schools are meant to have a list of 250 most used words, and these will form the backbone of almost all American early reader series. I am not aware of a similar word list in British schools, but Oxford does have a 354 word list of most frequently used words, which incorporates most of the American ones and adds a number of slightly more complex ones. This is criticised by those who believe in phonics only instruction, but I found this fit in very well with a mixed phonics and whole language approach.
The idea behind these books is that children will be familiar with the majority of the words, giving them confidence, and letting them really enjoy the books. Of course most children will find a few new words if they are reading at the right level, this allows them to expand there reading vocabulary smoothly and easily. If you are using a whole language approach, you can just read the new word out for the child if they falter when reading. As we used phonics, I would usually sound new words out, but of course most words would be known as sight words. This doesn't mean they were always sight words - they were learned phonetically at one time, but we all progress to reading words rather than sounds at some point. The two methods do not need to be mutually exclusive.
This book is only 32 pages, and it is heavy on illustrations. I was afraid this book might be a bit lacking in plot, but it is actually very good considering the length. The story focuses on one of Spiderman's better known arch enemies, The Green Goblin. This story tells us how he became the Green Goblin, but being a young child's book it has to end on a happy note, making it a bit less authentic as a Spiderman story in my opinion. There are a few fight scenes - it wouldn't be a proper super hero story without them, but no death or real bloodshed. The illustrations are good, and very much like comic book illustrations.
My son really enjoyed this for awhile, and then grew bored with it, as he quickly had it memorised. He has since moved on to proper comics and graphic novels, but he still enjoys listening to this or reading it to his brother once in awhile. It is my 3 year old who most enjoys this book now. He does imitate his older brother in many things, and because his older brother is into super heroes now, he wants super hero books too. The majority of graphic novels are just too advanced for him. This book, with a short and action packed story and plenty of colourful illustrations makes a perfect bedtime story for younger children who have an interest in super heroes. As an added bonus, when he is old enough to start reading - these will be used as reading primers once again.
The publishers have taken to labeling the first 3 levels of I Can Read Books as appropriate for ages 4-8. I suppose this does grant some recognition to the fact that children will learn to read at very different ages, but it also makes it quite difficult for parents to choose the right the level. I do not think many 4 year olds will be reading this book, but I think it is a grand book for parents to read to children at age 4, or even significantly younger. I do wish I had bought these sooner for my oldest son, as he could have had much more use from them. If you have a young child who likes Spiderman - I would not put any minimum age level on this book.
If this book is intended for a child to read independently, than I feel ages 5-6 would be about right for most children. My 7 year old does still enjoy these books once in awhile, but I can't see purchasing them for an older child. I would still recommend them for a classroom library though, as they are certainly boy friendly. I feel that even boys of 8-9 may pick this up to read once, and if a boy's reading is slightly delayed, he may well get more enjoyment from this than typical reading primers.
This book sells for £2.60 new from Amazon including postage. Currently used copies cost more than new ones, but Amazon often has books in the series as low as £1.24 including postage. At these prices, this might be worth picking up for a struggling reader, even if is a bit older and less likely to read this often. As long as it is read a few times, it could be worth the price.
I would prefer to give this book 4 1/2 stars, as I think something should be deducted for using so much white text. However, knocking a whole star off does seem a bit too much, and considering the amount of times this book has been read in our house, the fact that it did help my oldest with learning to read, and the low purchase price I just can't bring this down to 4 stars, so a full 5 stars from our family. My oldest btw says it is good, but not nearly as good as graphic novels, but the youngest says that he likes this a lot.