Review ~ Macmillan Factual ReadersA colourful and interesting six-level set of forty factual graded readers that could be used with all levels of young learners and even some adults.
For the most part, graded readers need to be level-appropriate, well written and, most importantly, interesting. Macmillan’s new series of Factual Readers for young learners match all of these requirements. The 40 book series is divided into six levels covering the five topics of natural science, history, people, wildlife and transport. Full of pictures, tables and diagrams that bring the topics to life, these books offer a good alternative to the plethora of narrative-based readers that usually fill most extensive reading libraries.
The presentation of these books is very similar to what one would find in books for young native English speakers like Guinness World Records books or a Time for Kids Almanac. The presentation of information is bold, clear and well illustrated. For kids interested in general knowledge and unusual facts (as I was when I was a kid) they are perfect. While some of the lower levels may be by necessity rather basic, there are still some wonderful little bits of trivia for kids to digest. The pictures often raise questions which motivate the kids to read and find out what they are about.
From a difficulty standpoint, the publishers rate these books as slightly higher than their standard readers. This is because of the extra challenge the specialist language may pose. Although it is true that some of the vocabulary is more technical in nature, this doesn’t make them that much harder. After all, many narrative graded readers need to use less frequent vocabulary to tell the story. Trying one of the Level 1 books with a group of pre-schoolers proved no additional challenge compared with other readers. The same was true using a Level 6 book with eleven year olds. As long as they were interested in the topic, the vocabulary didn’t seem to faze them.
The series is well supported online. Firstly, an audio version of each book is available for free online and to download. These are well read and level appropriate. There is also a teacher’s guide for the whole series. It gives ideas for extending the use of the books in class, as well as information about the grammar and vocabulary you would expect to see at each level. I highly recommend any teacher thinking of getting these books to read this and look at the samples to see if it would suit their students. For extra practice there are also worksheets available with comprehension and vocabulary questions.
With all this material there is no reason some of the Level 5 and Level 6 books couldn’t be used with adults. One adult learner said that a book was actually easier for them to read. This was because they had a better frame of reference for what they were reading compared with some fiction readers. At Level 5 and Level 6 the books are still short enough to be used in jigsaw reading activities during class.
Colorful, interesting and well supported, these books would make a good addition to any extensive reading library. Despite being described as for young learners and more advanced levels, they are suitable for a wide range of learners no matter what the level or age.