Book Review: Big Words For Little People

Big Words For Little People by Helen Mortimer and illustrated by Cristina Trapanese.

At a glance

  • A set of 8 books that focus on emotional development and expressive language improvement
  • Created using Oxford University Press’ unique children’s language database to support the personal, social and emotional development learning area of the Early Years curriculum
  • Elegant child-led stories without adult characters to encourage more talk
  • Includes mini-glossary and top tips for encouraging conversation and building language elasticity

Ask some four-year olds what it means to be kind, brave, happy or calm and you are likely to get a real mixed bag of responses.

But finding the words to express how you feel at this age isn’t easy which is why the language experts at Oxford University Press have got together to help.

They have created an exciting new series that sensitively, creatively and intelligently explores some of life’s big topics using very carefully selected words and phrases so children can make sense of their feelings.

Big Words for Little People has been created using the Oxford Education Corpus, a unique electronic database of millions of words written for and by children.

The words selected have therefore been chosen with strategic insights to help shape and cultivate language confidence using big words, little words and plenty in between for acquiring and utilising an emotional vocabulary.

Leafing through the titles devoted to Calmness and Friendship, I was immediately struck by how accessible they were for young readers.

The bright and breezy artwork features 6 positive and friendly child characters which helps children feel at ease and safe to discuss some big issues in a story-led way.

I was also impressed by how the books have been structured to nurture high quality interactions using varying vocabulary and words in different contexts that children will relate to such as putting on a show or enjoying craft activities.

They provide opportunities for wider learning through talk and skills such as social awareness, relationship skills, problem solving and knowledge.

These also help teach children to attend to the viewpoint of others, respond appropriately, sustain conversations and share thinking.

The books include plenty of ideas for getting the most out of each title and are full of practical and inspiring ideas and questions to nudge and prompt further learning conversations.

We know that vocabulary is a huge predictor of how far children will succeed at school and beyond which is why these books play an important role in learning to talk well and learning well through talk.

Crucially, they put children in the driving seat of their own learning.

The connection between oracy and well-being is crucial and this series is a clever example of how they can be combined to feed each other.

Other always ‘on trend’ titles available include bravery, kindness, happiness and doing your best and are £5.99 each.

The verdict

  • supports children traverse feelings and emotional responses with increased sure-footedness
  • helps schools to address the word gap and children become word aware
  • engaging art style and fun characters make these a user-friendly read
  • creates special moments to share in the rich language of citizenship
  • develop pupils’ speaking and listening skills and wider understanding of language

Upgrade if…

You are looking to purchase an age-appropriate set of books that masterfully talk through the ups and downs of first experiences using a language-rich approach devoted to social and emotional development and boosting oral language skills.

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