Book of the Month
Star Wars workbooks: Preschool ABC fun

Publisher: Workman
Author: -

ISBN: 978-076117803 3

Basic Beginners

The Star Wars franchise shows no sign of slowing down, and there is a small industry making dolls, video games and model spaceships for Star Wars fans. So why not use kids' fascination with a galaxy far, far away to teach basic literacy? This seems to be the reasoning behind the Star Wars Workbooks. It is effective too, if we are to judge by the now over a dozen best-selling books in the series - including the unfortunately entitled Learn well, you will. Here we look at a book aimed at the 4-5 age group which aims to teach basic phonics and writing the letters of the alphabet.

While integrating the Star Wars characters into almost every aspect of the book, the fundamental learning process here is basic repetition. (Which is no bad thing). There are 124 pages in the book, and a child working through it will be presented with the alphabet over and over again, sometimes with capital letters and sometimes lower case. Often there are exercises with the upper-case letters (capitals) on the left and lower-case letters on the right. This particular book was originally published in 2014 and has not been updated to include some of the more modern heroes and villians, so we have to make do with characters such as R2D2 and the evil emperor Palpatine.

There are many colourful graphics to keep the text theme-centered, and to judge by enthusiastic parental online reviews these succeed in keeping the attention of children in the target age group. There is practice in tracing letters to get children familiar with the names and shapes of letters, and further into the book the exercises become a bit more challenging. For example a later exercise has children matching pictures with the first letter of the name of the person or object shown. (e.g. 'L' is for 'Light-saber'.)

A critical parent might ask why, in a book which is about teaching alphabet phonics and writing letters, four pages are dedicated to making finger puppets of Star Wars characters. Actually, this is a good example of the professional application which underlies the colourful graphics and relentless starwarishness of the book. The idea is to get kids to think, 'Making finger puppets is fun. It's in this book. So obviously the other stuff in the book is as much fun as finger puppets.' And it works. The exercises here are carefully designed to seem as though they are about exploring the Star Wars universe, with learning an incidental benefit. After all, if you told a child, 'Let's train and build your phonics and language concepts' (which this book does) you might not get an enthusiastic response.

Who is this book for? The readership here is self-defining. The target reader is 4-5 years old, a Star Wars fan and getting to grips with basic literacy skills. From the EFL point of view, some teachers report that the book is useful with older children who are not familiar with Roman script (e.g. Chinese and Arabic students). It would have been easy for this book to simply paste Star Wars imagery into a standard phonics text. Fortunately this book avoids that trap.

Verdict: Verdict A well-executed concept
Assessment 9/10

Previous book reviews