Bob Cox continues to extend the breadth and depth of approaches that he, now joined by colleagues Leah Crawford and Verity Jones, brings to bear on a generous array of expertly chosen and linked texts designed to foster -˜continual curiosity'. As with earlier editions in the Opening Doors series, one of the real joys of the books' core structure is in the expert way in which the reader is guided to see connections within and across texts. Most excitingly, the books carefully support teachers in bringing these connections to life in class, through access strategies, prompt questions and challenges, as well as enriching - sometimes provocative - talk opportunities. The sort of talk opportunities that will generate a real buzz for the spoken, as well as written word. Opening Doors makes no bones about celebrating literature, and keeps -˜beautiful writing at the heart' of each unit. Students are supported to engage with the whole of the chosen texts, not atomised, isolated chunks that might develop technical skills but little else. This is a holistic vision for English learning.
Better still, there is plenty of choice in terms of suggested written outcomes to mark the series out as quite distinct from the more boxed-in, narrowed visions of writing that tend to predominate. Repeatedly this has struck me as the real hallmark of the Opening Doors books. They are helpful guides that supply an abundance of material to support time-pressed teachers keen to expand the literary horizons of their class, but that take great care to circumnavigate the growing tendency for prescription. It is like being in the hands of the best kind of tour guide. Enough information to keep you orientated and sure-footed. Enough fresh insight to open up new perspectives. A rich seam of knowledge to stimulate growth and further learning, and develop expertise in the field. And then, critically, enough space and gentle encouragement for teachers to adapt the approaches and range of texts used to suit their own, and their children's needs.
Each book offers a series of 15 units, 7 for poetry and 8 for prose. Classic texts by the likes of Emily Dickinson and E Nesbit sit alongside more recent works, such as Jamila Gavin's wonderful Blackberry Blue. Each section is blessed with extremely helpful lists of suggested further reading, carefully themed to include a vibrant mix of literary heritage, contemporary fiction and poetry, and high quality picturebooks. The chosen works are all geared to challenge in some way, whether it be through complexity, theme, or even through taking a challenging stance. This is challenge in a wider sense than is often intended. Challenge with heart, soul, inclusiveness, and integrity and - once more with feeling - beautiful writing at its heart.