Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry

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Best Word Book Ever by Richard Scarry

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: This really is the Best Word Book Ever . This book is fun, educational and a wonderful tool in helping your child learn to read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 72 Date: August 2013
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0007507092

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Richard's Scarry's Best Word Book Ever was first published in 1963. Over the years it has had a few minor revamps. Some adults have applauded these as improvements to the original, and others have bemoaned the changes as pandering to political correctness. I for one like the inclusion of female characters in traditionally male jobs and, knowing the actual definition of squaw, I am more than happy to see it removed. Most of all I appreciate the inclusion of Hanukkah and a menorah under Holidays, as I believe this will keep some children from feeling that their culture is left out.

I would have loved a few other additions as well, to include a few more cultures and traditions, but I won't complain about the one that has been added. But whether adults approve of or despise the changes, most children are hardly likely to notice. They will too busy enjoying the wonderful illustrations and imagining life in Richard Scarry's unique world. I found the limited changes to make this book more inclusive are a welcome improvement. The matter of missing pages is another issue with this book, and one in which I find more sympathy with those complaining. I honestly did not notice the missing pages at first, thinking other illustrations I remembered must have been in other books. I have spent a lot of time researching this though, and it does appear a number of pages have been omitted. These include the garden page, which was primarily different flowers and their names, and a homes page which looked absolutely brilliant and is a real loss in my opinion, but not enough to keep us from really treasuring this book.

This is not a story. It is a collection of illustrations, grouped together into various themes including school, the playground, the zoo and home. Various occupations are shown, such as fire fighters and construction workers, methods of transport and a wide assortment of everyday items. Each illustration has a single word underneath it. As a parent or teacher reads this over and over children quickly learn the words they do not already know, and come to associate the illustration with the printed and the spoken word. This does utilise whole language, or the look - say method of reading instruction which has recently fallen foul of the reading wars as phonics is once again becoming the preferred method of reading instruction. If anything, this will make this book more popular. Some children do learn best through phonics, others through whole language.

I believe most children learn best with some exposure to both methods. When a child really struggles with reading, parents are desperate to go back to the old methods - and a simple change in method of instruction is often enough to work miracles. When the education boards swing to one extreme or the other, parents often swing to the opposite extreme. But even if a child is taught to read with a strong phonics programme, and does very well it, they must eventually learn to read words by sight as well. I happen to be a strong supporter of phonics, but I love books like this as well. This book is a very pleasant and easy way to vastly increase your child's reading vocabulary, and have fun at the same time. Whether a child sounds each word out - or simply comes to know them through repetition, this book gives a child a huge stock of familiar words to help them become independent readers.

For the most part, the illustrations in this book are timeless. The cars however, while lovely, are dated. I can't imagine any child recognising the blue car with a siren on top as a police car, much less a British child. The mail truck and taxis will also appear strange to British children, but we don't mind seeing things from other places or eras, and there really would be no way to change the illustrations without taking from the original charm of the book. Some things like fountain pens have also become less everyday objects to most children. The text has been edited for a British audience. It has bin instead of trash can, petrol instead of gasoline and flat instead of apartment. But they did miss a few Americanisms such as merry-go-round instead of roundabout and postman instead of mailman. These minor details are not an issue to me. My sons are well aware that people use different words in other countries. There really are only a handful words that use the American terminology, but if even the occasional Americanism is something which really upsets you, you may want to give this book a miss.

While this is not intended as story, it is very easy to turn into one. We often choose one or more of the illustrations and weave our own stories around them. Be warned - you can easily spend three hours at a time reading this book if you do this. This is a wonderful book to encourage communication and interaction with children. You can ask which of several items is their favourite, what order the bears should put their clothes on in, what foods the characters might be making, and what the character might do next. The illustrations are brilliant. There are countless number of word books available. The illustrations are what sets this one apart. This is the only word book I have ever found that is actually fun to read. No matter how educational a book it is, it is worthless if the child never wants to listen to it. This is a book children will be happy to listen to over and over again, and to sit down with on their own as they take the first steps to independent reading.

While literacy is very clearly the main reason to buy this book, it does teach several other subjects as well. The book begins with the letters of the alphabet, with a nice illustration for each. It gives the word, numeral and illustrations for numbers 1 - 20 but there must be hundreds of other things you could count in this book - like all the bears, all the vehicles etc... There is page showing the primary colours, and which mixtures will make other colours. The action page is ideal as a first introduction to verbs. Older children can search for nouns and adjectives as well. Another page teaches shapes and sizes. With a bit of imagination, the possibilities are endless and I do believe imagination is the one thing this book encourages most of all.

For more by Richard Scarry we can recommend:

Best Bedtime Stories Ever

What Do People Do All Day?

Richard Scarry's Funniest Storybook Ever

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