Book reviews - learning to read with Raintree Books

Raintree Engage Literacy

Engage Literacy is an award-winning programme perfect for guided, independent and shared reading. The precisely levelled readers, comprehensive teacher support, comprehension resources and audio eBooks cover a huge variety of topics and provide an exciting fun programme to engage even the most reluctant of readers. Engage Literacy includes:

  • Precisely levelled books
  • Fiction and non-fiction pairs
  • Comprehensive teaching resources
  • Oral Language Big Books
  • Digital Posters for each book title (levels 1 to 15)
  • Wonder Words’ set focusing on high-frequency words
What really appeals to me is the fact that each fiction book has a matched non fiction book. Often children (and we know this applies to boys) prefer to read non fiction and they can be encouraged to read by giving them books on a topic which appeals to them. The fiction and non fiction titles link and use much of the same vocabulary, this providing valuable reinforcement. Find out more from the Raintree website. The Raintree Wonder Words link with this.

Engage Literacy Pink: Levels 1-2 Teacher's Resource Book by Lisa Thorpe

Engage Literacy is the reading scheme from Raintree that introduces engaging and contemporary content to motivate and support early readers while providing a reliable and instructional framework. All titles are precisely levelled, with new vocabulary being introduced and reinforced throughout the levels. The graded vocabulary gradually introduces the high frequency words, allowing a smooth transition for readers as their reading progresses. The reading books are attractive in format with bright pictures which link closely to the text, allowing children to use these for additional clues. Different illustrative styles are used through the series, including photos and drawings and these relate well to the text, keeping interest alive.
The Pink book band comprises fiction and non-fiction books at levels 1 and 2. This book is the accompanying Teacher's Resource book, which includes instructional notes, Oral Running Records, photocopiable worksheets for comprehension support and much more. 
Emergent Level 1 Pink
Emergent Level 2 Pink
Word count 40-67

Engage Literacy Red: Levels 3-5 Teacher's Resource Book by Lisa Thorpe

Each set of levels has its own Teacher's Resource Book and I was sent this one for review - the content and format of each will be similar. Each book includes teaching notes for each book in the series plus accompanying photocopiable worksheets - many of these can be used to link with other curriculum subjects and the curriculum links are indicated for every book. The worksheets are varied, including sequencing, labelling, crafts and much more, making this an excellent all-round resource. There is also a running record for each title to help teachers with that all-important recording of progress.

Can Squirrel Hide the Acorn? (Emergent/Early Level 4 Fiction) by Jay Dale

Can Squirrel hide the big acorn? The word count is 91 and the book links to the curriculum for pets/animals, environment and science (as does Autumn). Cannot and For are the two new high frequency words introduced. There is good guidance for teachers and parents on the inside cover, regarding inferential questions and phonological awareness. Gorgeous illustrations make the book bright and appealing. The companion non-fiction book is Autumn. The Red Cart (Engage Literacy: Engage Literacy Red by Anne Giulieri) is the same level and is all about the animals travelling along in a bright red cart. With 92 words, the story introduces going, oh and we. The books have lovely bright appealing covers and the landscape format is attractive and child-friendly.

Autumn (Emergent/Early Level 4 Non-fiction) by Jay Dale

This is the companion book to Can Squirrel Hide the Acorn? and encourages children to explore the topic through simple sentences and colourful photos. The descriptive text has a word count of 71 and the words playing and autumn are introduced. Also available at this level is Push and Pull (Engage Literacy: Engage Literacy Red by Anne Giulieri). This explains in very simple terms how pushes and pulls work, as the girl and the photos are enhanced by arrows which show the force in action. The word count is 74 and the word introduced is goes.

Emergent Level 3 Red
Emergent Level 4 Red
Word count 73-89

Be Honest (Emergent/Early Level 5 Fiction) by Jay Dale

The horse is playing hide-and-seek with his friends... but is he being honest? It's a simple story but effective in the way it uses a common scenario and gives plenty of opportunity for discussing what happens in the story. The lively illustrations of all the animal friends will really capture children's attention and they make the book enjoyable to read. The word count is increasing, now up to 107, and away, good, he, run and sad are introduced. In Molly Mouse Has a Party (Engage Literacy: Engage Literacy Red by Anne Giulieri), Molly lets the bird and the rabbit into the party... but why is the fox looking hungry? The book clearly shows the phonological awareness addressed through the text - suffixes, consonant blends and phoneme isolation.

I Am Honest by Jay Dale (Emergent/Early Level 5 Non-fiction) by Jay Dale

This is the companion book to Be Honest and extends on the thoughts of that book. The little girl gets into all sorts of scrapes, including making the floor muddy and spilling the cereal but she does the right thing and tells her dads. But she's not the only one who has little accidents... An inclusive story that will give the opportunity for discussion about different families. Animal Foods (Engage Literacy: Engage Literacy Red by Kelly Gaffney) introduces a range of animals and shows what they eat. Super photos add to the learning value and the curriculum links of environment, science and animals. It's good to see these links cited in the books, so the books can be integrated into classroom learning.

Emergent Level 5 Red
Word count 103-104

Engage Literacy Yellow: Levels 6-8 Teacher's Resource Book by Lisa Thorpe

The books in the yellow band continue to introduce carefully graded new words. As with all the books, the linking of fiction and non-fiction texts is a real feature; children can read about Lea's birthday and then, in the non-fiction book, find out about birthdays around the world. This links excellently with multi-cultural work and makes the books relevant for all young readers. The illustrations are stimulating and give the opportunity for plenty of discussion.

Story-time Surprise (Early Level 6 Fiction) by Jay Dale

The children all enjoy story time at school and they all agree that the book on dragons will be the best. Lively illustrations give plenty of opportunities to expand on the story, which introduces six new high frequency words. All the books give very helpful information inside the front cover to help adults choose the right level for children. Another fiction book at this level is I Want That Hat (Engage Literacy: Engage Literacy Yellow by Anne Guilieri) Bob knows just what he wants to wear... but mum knows better!

At The Library (Early Level 6 Non-fiction) by Jay Dale

Complementing the story by the same author, the girl is visiting the library with her mum; they look at the computers as well as at books and then choose a big book to read. Inferential questions are suggested to stimulate ideas for discussion. THere's a useful lesson for children in Things I Want and Things I Need (Engage Australia: Engage Literacy Yellow by Kelly Gaffney), which is effectively illustrated by good photos to add to the interest. The books are clearly graded by level as indicated on the back cover with flags showing the level.

Lea and Dad Make a Garden ((Early Level 7 Fiction) by Jay Dale

Lea wants to make a garden - she and Dad have four plants and four pots, and Dad has a shed full of tools. Soon they are enjoying the big plants. Colourful illustrations are full of detail with lots of opportunity to extend learning and discussion; it's good to see how this links with the non-fiction title Watch the Bean Grow. There are 138 words and high-frequency words are consolidated. Oh, Max! (Engage Literacy: Engage Literacy Yellow by Anne Giulieri) sees the children playing in the garden with Max the dog. The book has curriculum links to ourselves, school and physically active.

Watch the Bean Grow (Early Level 7 Non-fiction) by Kelly Gaffney

Beans are great for children to grow, as they produce quick results when sown. This book uses good colour photos to follow the growing process, accompanied by carefully selected text with 122 words. A good way to encourage children to take an interest in sowing seeds, which links well with Lea and Dad Make a Garden. Opposites (Engage Literacy: Engage Literacy Yellow by Anne Giulieri) takes a look at a key concepts studied by young children, using super colour photos of animals and familiar objects for the comparisons.

Early Level 6 Yellow
Early Level 7 Yellow
Word count 115-129

Mo's Broken Arm (Early Level 8 Fiction) by Anne Giulieri

Oh dear - Mo has fallen and she needs the doctor's help to look after her broken arm... and then a little bird needs Mo's help. As with all the books, there are sample inferential questions to aid understanding and promote discussion and use of language; Why can Mo not get to the top? Why do you think Mo wants to help the little bird? Dad's Old Photo Book (Engage Literacy: Engage Literacy Yellow by Jay Dale)Etta is helping Dad look for his old photo book. Encourage children to take an interest in their family history as well! All the Engage Literacy books have bright appealing covers - this is key to gaining children's interest and to encouraging them to read.

My Body (Early Level 8 Non-fiction) by Anne Giulieri

Explore the human body with colourful photos with labels for extra reading practice. There are 129 words and brown, have, help and outside are introduced - it's useful to have this information for reference and planning. Encourage children's interest in the past with the fascinating pictures of then and now which will stimulate discussion in The Old Days and Now (Engage Literacy: Engage Literacy Yellow by Jay Dale)The books are planned to support the curriculum and also to reflect children's interests, so they are good to support all-round learning. The books continue to introduce and consolidate high frequency words, and the word count gradually increases, giving children an excellent gentle learning journey and building confidence slowly but surely.

Early Level 8 Yellow
Word count 147-148

Engage Literacy Blue Levels 9-11 Teacher's Resource Book by Lisa Thorpe

Moving on, the topics covered in the books, both fiction and non-fiction, are appealing to children, giving them a real incentive to read. The stories are getting longer, giving a real sense of achievement. The illustrations are still a major part of the appeal of the books and the introduction of picture glossaries is an especially good feature.
Level 9 Blue
Level 10 Blue 
Word count 164-170
Level 11 Blue
Word count 184-187

Engage Literacy Green: Levels 12-14 Teacher's Resource Book by Lisa Thorpe

More words are introduced at this level and the interesting link between the fiction and non-fiction books is retained - this really is a good way to encourage interest and to introduce both forms of reading matter - both are equally enjoyable and the high quality illustrations make the books most attractive. There are many different characters in the book - no more getting bored with Janet and John! - but children will also enjoy the fact that familiar characters do reappear.
Level 12 Green
Level 13 Green 
Word count 198-239
Level 14 Green
Word count 251-253 

Engage Literacy Teacher's Resource Book Levels 15-20 Orange, Turquoise and Purple by Lauren White

Different writing formats are introduced - for example, Off to the Movies is in diary format; A Go-Kart at School is in the form of a letter. Picture glossaries are a great asset in the non-fiction books and can be a springboard for further reading. The introduction to the books includes high frequency words introduced and consolidated; example inferential questions and phonological awareness.
Level 15 Orange
Level 16 Orange
Word count 256-339 
Level 17 Turquoise
Level 18 Turquoise 
Word count 349-439
Level 19 Purple
Level 20 Purple
Word count 450-526 

Engage Literacy Teacher's Resource Book Levels 21-25 Gold, White and Lime by Lauren White

The books at this level have increased vocabulary and interest levels. The non-fiction resources are really becoming valuable as reference books in their own right - the picture glossaries in the non-fiction books are a great learning aid. The fiction books now offer really satisfying stories which will give children a strong sense of satisfaction; they are lively and contemporary as well as being well illustrated. Again, different writing formats appear, fro example Animal Rescue Shelter is a letter; a good way to reinforce different writing styles.
Level 21 Gold 
Level 22 Gold
Word count 544-742
Level 23 White
Level 24 White
Word count 793-1014
 Level 25 Lime
Word count 866-1170

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