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Earlier this year I discovered Oxford's Project X series for boys. Although the books tend to be pricey - as much as £5 for a 16 page book, I have to admit I am very impressed by this series. Oxford has designed these books in clusters of 5, all at the same reading level and sharing a common theme. Each cluster includes 2 non fiction books. This book is part of the orange book band, level 6. This would be equivalent to Oxford Reading Tree level 6 as well.
This particular book describes how germs make us ill. It explains that our body is invaded by germs every day, how germs enter our body, and how good health habits, like hand washing can help. There are cartoon illustrations of germs as well as a microscopic picture of the real thing. The book has a table of contents, a glossary and an index, which is a nice touch for a book for early readers.
Like all books in this series, there is a box with a list of "Tricky words", or words the child is apt to be less familiar with at this stage. also included on this list are words that can not be sounded out easily, like cough. This level will also include many more 3 syllable words. The tricky words for this book are "different, spread, medicine, fight, healthy, cough, breathe, and properly". I always read the words in this box to my son before he reads the book for the first time, pointing out each word carefully and perhaps mentioning that this one is hard to sound out, but "gh" can make the "f" sound. I also had to explain what "invade", "invader" and "invasion" meant when starting this series, but I am glad it is adding to his vocabulary. The back flap of this book also includes a few sample questions for the parent or teacher to ask the child after reading this book. This is meant to ensure the child is understands what they are reading, as sometimes early readers may be so caught up in the mechanics of reading that they are not really getting any meaning or information from what they are reading.
As we have been using this series for some time, this book presented a moderate level of difficulty for my 6 year old son. The majority of the words were familiar, but a few new ones needed to be learned. This is what I would want in a book to teach reading - enough difficulty to learn new things, but not enough to frustrate the child. My son does really enjoy this book, and even my 2 year old enjoys listening to it and looking at the pictures. In particular the boys like a the photo which shows where germs are on an unwashed hand, as well as the picture of what a sickness germ looks like under a microscope. The cartoon illustrations are very well done as well, and really show how the body's defense mechanisms work.
One downside to this book is that I would have liked a very brief mention of a healthy diet in a book about staying healthy. That said, the book is limited for space with only 16 pages, and one of the books in this series does include information on healthy foods. The other downside to this book is, as mentioned, the price. I bought this in a pack of 5 which cost me £22 from amazon. A new copy at the moment will cost you £4.40 from amazon, or £3.83 including postage from Amazon's marketplace. Surprising, used copies are significantly more expensive then new.
In spite of the price, I am happy enough with this book and will continue to buy more in the same series. I was surprised when I asked my son what his very favourite book of all was. I was expecting it to be Bakugan - but it turns out to be one from this series. This series was designed to make boys interested in reading ( although there is no reason girls won't enjoy it as well) and it certainly succeeds at that. My son will often go to the bookshelf on his own to choose one of these books to read for himself. This series has rally helped him progress in his reading, as well as helping him learn about various other topics - like health. To me any series of books that a child will turn the wii off for and sit down and read is worth paying a bit extra for.
Of course I recommend this book, but for what age level is the question? It is really hard to pin down an appropriate level by age for a child to read, as children learn to read at very different times. Since most schools do use Oxford reading products, you might ask your child's teacher for a suggestion on what reading level to start with. If you have Oxford Read at home books it is quite easy as the levels are the same. Other than that, I would have to guess that this book would be most appropriate for a child who can already sound out most simple words, has a reading vocabulary of 300 words + and can easily read many 2 syllable words. If choosing to start these books part way through the series though, i would certainly try to chose at least one level below my child's reading level and work up from there. I think it is better to encourage mastery of one level before moving on to the next.
I bought this book for my recently turned 6 year old and it suits him quite well. Seeing how much my youngest son loves just listening to these books though, if I could I would really have preferred to start buying these for the boys as story books from infancy, and used them as story books first and then as reading books when they were older. I would recommend this book to parents of very young children, form perhaps 2 1/2 upwards as a book to read children and teach them about health and hygiene. I think it does help children to understand what is happening when they feel ill, as well as encouraging hand washing.
Book Series: Project X