Vol. 4. No. 3 R-7 May 2000
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Grandparents are Special

Allyson Rothburd (1999)
Brattleboro, VT: Pro Lingua Associates
Pp. iv + 60
ISBN 0-86647-124-3 (paper)
US $14.00

Teacher's Guide
Pp. iv + 28
ISBN 0-86647-125-1 (paper)
US $18.00


Grandparents are Special is a reader for upper elementary and middle school students who are learning to read English as a second language in an English speaking setting. It is a story about the importance in our lives of special people such as our grandparents. A Teacher's Guide with photocopyable worksheets accompanies the reader.


The student book contains a text of approximately 2000 words, written at the 600-word level. This is the story in brief: Olga goes to her grandparents' hair salon every day after school, because her parents are at work. She helps Grandpa and Grandma with chores. In school, she and her friends from many different countries are learning to read English. One day she asks her grandmother to read a book to her. She is stunned to find out that her grandmother can't read, but Grandma tells her true stories and cooks special treats from her old country (Russia) for Olga and her class. Olga decides to teach Grandma to read. They learn together. At school, Olga writes down one of Grandma's stories, and the teacher suggests that they organise an open house to show their work. Students can bring members of their families, so Olga invites her Grandma, who reads her story.

Many different themes and subjects are touched on in the story, such as:


There are about 2000 words in the text, and over 90% of the words occur within the 600-word lexicon. If students know 600 basic words, they will find the text comprehensible. This set of basic words is based partly on word frequency, so the most frequently encountered words in English are included. The lexicon includes the following 16 lexical, semantic, and grammatical sets:

The accompanying teacher's guide is divided into two parts. The first part includes 13 lesson plans that can be used to explore the content of the text in a variety of ways. The lesson plans suggest different procedures and the use different kinds of interaction, as well as providing activities for beginner, intermediate, and advanced level students. These lesson plans focus on the themes of the story and help students explore the relevance of the story to their own lives.

The second part of the teacher's guide consists of photocopyable worksheets designed to supplement the lesson plans with specific activities related to the themes. There is one worksheet for each lesson plan.


The way this story is told and its content make the book suitable for young learners. However, the book is too long for children who are just starting to learn English as a foreign language. This book is most appropriate for children ranging from 6 to 8 years old, who are beginning to develop skill in reading English as a second language, especially in an English-speaking setting.

In my point of view, the pictures that illustrate the student book are old-fashioned. Children nowadays are used to very elaborate illustrations, and they may not identify with these pictures.

The teacher's guide that accompanies Grandparents are Special offers well-organised material for teachers. Its lesson plans are interesting and useful for a reflexive, interactive, and communicative approach to teaching. The teacher's guide is also useful because it provides different procedures and activities for mixed ability classes, and suggestions for different kinds of interaction inside the classroom. [-2-]


This material is useful for working in the classroom over an extended period of time, because of the length of the text, the number of themes that it deals with, and the quantity of activities that can be done. Grandparents are Special is a suitable tool to involve students in significant reading activities, since it deals with relevant and global subjects that are very important in values education, such as multiculturalism, health, important people, and so forth.

To sum up, Grandparents are Special is a learner centred book that facilitates the teaching of reading in English in an English-speaking setting with a communicative approach.

Lola Grau
Centro de Formación, Innovación y Recursos Educativos (CEFIRE)
de Godella, Spain

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