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Story House Press
Story House Press creates timeless stories and classics for anyone who loves to read and who wants to learn or improve their English through reading.
Our series of Story House Classics is designed to inspire a love of reading in students while teaching and expanding their knowledge of the English language and words.
At each level, students can choose between a short read and a long read , depending on their abilities and preferences, and each reader includes a variety of exercises at the beginning and the end to stimulate comprehension and enjoyment of the story. Level 1 readers also include a Picture dictionary to help with comprehension of words. The readers follow the Cambridge curriculum for Young Learners exams Starters , Movers and Flyers and are carefully graded for each level.
A Letter from the Series Editor
‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.’ Albert Einstein
By the time I started school, I loved books. Books were friends, and so when I was handed a school text book, I was certain that it would be enjoyable. It was more than just schoolwork, it was a book, and books to me were special.
‘Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.’ – George Bernard Shaw
At some time in my childhood or in my teens, I have read all the stories included in the Story House Press series of readers, and there are some stories that I have read more than once, and all the stories have left a life-long impression on me in one way or another. I have kept as faithfully as possible to the original text of the stories but of course they have had to be abridged to create the readers, and in doing so I have excluded the parts of the stories that didn’t interest me so much as a teenager. I have kept all the things that moved me or fascinated me or made a big impression on me, for example: the little paper castle with the mirror for a lake in The Little Toy Soldier, ‘the black spot’ in Treasure Island, Ginger’s death in Black Beauty, the final scene of The Railway Children when Roberta’s father comes back, the house with a hundred rooms and Mary’s friendship with the robin in The Secret Garden, the train speeding across the bridge just before it falls in Around the World in Eighty Days. Of course, there are many more moments too numerous to mention, and I’m sure each of your students will find their own special memories.
The treasure in books
‘There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.’ – Walt Disney
As a child, I really believed this. Stories took me to other worlds and because the characters in the stories I read had amazing adventures, I believed that I could have adventures too. They found treasure on beaches and pirates in caves and secret passages in castles, and they befriended dragons and magical creatures and so I could too. The characters gave me a very positive outlook on life. They were strong and they were optimistic about life and what they could achieve, and they made me think that everything in life was possible and that has stayed with me throughout my life. Yes, there will be tough times, they showed me that too, but their characters got through those times and I knew I could too. They instilled values in me too, the importance of friendship and kindness, honesty and empathy, a love of nature and a care for the environment.
The power of illustration
Books are not just words. They’re pictures too. You may find that some of your students are reluctant to read the words but they may enjoy just looking at the illustrations. There’s nothing wrong in that. It’s a start. Encourage them to see the illustrations as very much part of the story and very much a part of the pleasure of reading books. I was attracted by the bright colours in Brian Wildsmith’s illustrations. The first version I read of The Lion and the Mouse was illustrated by him, and growing up with an artist mother it was very much pictures and colour that lead me to stories and to my love of words and books. Once you see the book as something pleasurable, you have the passport to learning new words and new ideas and you have been given a precious gift – a gift that means you will never be bored.
The power of the imagination
The children’s author, Neil Gaiman was at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy conference in China in 2007. Science fiction had been disapproved of in China. He asked what had changed and this was the answer:
It’s simple. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans, but they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
In context and glossed words
As a young reader, when I came across a word in the story that I didn’t recognise, I guessed the meaning from the context. I didn’t look the word up in my dictionary because I didn’t want to break off from the story to do that. Sometimes I looked the words up later to check the meaning, and I found that usually I had guessed correctly. In this series, you will notice, I haven’t put the glossed words in bold. There is just an asterisk. The reason for this is that some students may know these words and I don’t want them to be distracted by the bold.
When I glossed two words or a phrase, I put those words in bold. There are some words I have used for example ‘little’ instead of ‘small’ in the Level 1 readers. I have done this because it is a very useful word and one more commonly used especially by children. Another example is ‘hug’ which is in almost every story at every level. It’s a high-frequency word and it’s short and easy to learn so these stories provide a good opportunity to learn it. Another word I chose to keep was ‘sprinkle’ in A Christmas Carol. It’s very descriptive, it has a nice sound and it is very useful. The White Rabbit says, ‘Oh, my ears and whiskers, it’s very late.’ in Alice in Wonderland. He could just say, ‘It’s very late.’ But that would be less interesting and whiskers is a useful word. I’ve kept words like ‘bauble’ and ‘flame’ in The Little Match Girl because they are easily illustrated. I’ve sometimes kept words because they made an impression on me the first time I read the book.
Grading the story
When I grade a story, I think very carefully about what I keep and don’t keep, whether it’s a word, a sentence, a scene or a whole chapter. The short excerpt below shows how one text was graded.
The original preface to A Christmas Carol
I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant, Charles Dickens
I’ve tried to write a ghost story that will not make my readers unhappy with themselves, each other, the season, or with me. May it *haunt their houses *pleasantly.
Your good Friend, Charles Dickens December, 1843.
On the topic of Charles Dickens:
Even if you don’t live in a culture that celebrates Christmas, I urge you to let your students read A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens is writing about the spirit of Christmas which is to show charity, kindness and compassion to everyone less fortunate than ourselves and that message shines bright like the flame of a candle throughout the story. Learning about other cultures through stories makes us more curious and less prejudiced and more open to friendship with people of other cultures from around the world. There are things we can all learn about each other and where better to learn them than in a story.
Students who read, improve in every area of learning
I hope you students will enjoy the stories and that they will learn to love books as I did. I also hope you will allow them to enjoy the books and to read them for pleasure and that you will not turn them into just one more way to test their English. The importance of ‘the book’ is the story and the enjoyment of the story, and the bonus is that books provide children with a fantastic opportunity to develop their vocabulary and language skills as a whole.
Finally, it is worth remembering that research has shown that students who read, improve in every area of learning at a faster rate than students who don’t read. We started with a quote so let’s end with a quote.
‘Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.’