In the classroom

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Gill Tavner

Why more illustrated classics?

by Gill Tavner, regular Real Reads reteller

How many times have you heard somebody speak fondly about a Dickens, Austen or Hardy novel that they read in school or studied for ‘O’ Level or ‘A’ Level, yet they have not read another since?

As an English Teacher and Head of English, I have witnessed the enjoyment experienced by children of all ages and abilities when guided sensitively through a daunting text.


They enjoy using their critical faculties to analyse plot, characters, themes and the writer’s craft. They are capable of lively critical debate. However, only the most confident readers will broaden their reading of classics independently of a teacher, either as children or in their adult life. Most people therefore deprive themselves of the delights offered by some of the most influential writers and thinkers. What a loss for them. What a loss for our society.

I have long thought that there must be a way of making the qualities of ‘classics’ accessible to most readers, but I was unconvinced that abridging was the answer. As a mother of two young children, I have endured the pain of reading abridged fairy tales and Disney films. These often machine-gun the reader with a list of events. Rarely do they offer the reader an opportunity to develop interest in or appreciation of varied vocabulary, style or themes. Do abridged versions need to be like this? Surely there is a way to make an abridged version an enjoyable and enriching rather than simply informative reading experience? Surely this is an important distinction if we aim to nurture keen, confident readers?

In Real Reads we believe we have found an answer to these problems. For many readers, Real Reads will develop a confidence and enthusiasm to address the original, something we try to nurture in the ‘Taking Things Further’ section of every Real Read. For others, who might never have tackled the originals, Real Reads make accessible great stories, great characters and important moral debates which they might otherwise never have encountered.


How Real Reads work in the classroom

Real Reads are accessible texts designed to support the literacy development of primary and lower secondary age children while introducing them to the riches of our international literary heritage. The books can be enjoyed by readers in middle primary, and allow older children with literacy difficulties to engage with great stories. The books are also useful in the teaching of English as an additional language.

Each Real Reads book is separated into three distinct sections: The Characters; The Story; and “Taking Things Further”.

Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions.


The Characters

A useful “cast of characters” list to introduce the reader to the story’s main protagonists and antagonists. Each character description asks a question which intrigues the reader to read further.

The Characters


The Story

Faithfully retold, our authors treat each story with the respect it deserves – and aim to retell the classics in the style and voice of the original authors, often quoting best-known lines. Real Reads are designed to complement, not replace, great literature, and serve to encourage young and reluctant readers to embrace these wonderful stories and even to approach the full originals undaunted.

The Story


Taking Things Further

The ‘Taking things further’ section is designed to provide historical, social and human context to the work in hand. It suggests links to useful online resources, recommends further reading and also TV and films to further immerse the reader in the story and asks challenging and insightful questions to promote a deeper engagement with the work.

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Measured Readers

Real Reads uses three widely recognised levelling scales, all of which provide measures of text complexity which can be used to ensure that your child is reading appropriate texts for their reading ability. Learn more about Real Reads levelling here.


Success in the classroom

“At Cottenham Primary School we have been using Real Reads books in our Upper Key Stage Two classrooms for the last year. We wanted our children to have the opportunity to explore classic texts at an age appropriate level, so that they could enjoy the story and broaden their reading repertoire. To foster inclusion within our classrooms, we trialled ‘dialogical literacy gatherings’ in our Year 5 classes (a book club for children) which encouraged the children to talk in depth about characters, themes, and plot and make links with their own lives and experiences. Each child was given their own copy of a Real Reads classic, and the class would collectively agree to read a set number of pages before the next gathering and come ready to share their thoughts and feelings. The engagement of the children was beyond our wildest expectations and even the most reluctant readers were reading and sharing their ideas; with many reading in excess of the agreed pages. This success led us to invest in further sets of Real Reads which we use as whole class guided reading texts across all twelve of our Key Stage Two classes. The quality of the texts and the richness of the vocabulary are second to none.”

– Helen Hurworth, Assistant Headteacher, Cottenham Primary School


Reawakening Literature

Accessing and sharing important works of literature is often a daunting experience. Jane Campion’s practical guide is designed to support teachers and parents in maximising children’s reading experience. It identifies a range of opportunities for developing reading skills, and for talking about books. It also suggests ways of developing readers’ appreciation and understanding of the cultural and social contexts of these classics as world literature.

Reawakening Literature: Working with Classic Literature Retellings

Reawakening Literature: Working with Classic Literature Retellings cover

Jane Campion

ISBN 978-1-906230-73-9

£5.99

A Guide for Educators

The guide is divided into five sections

  • plot and structure
  • character
  • themes
  • language
  • context

Activities are designed to encourage engagement, strengthen comprehension, and to support the development of more complex skills such as inferential reading. For each activity there is an explanation of the activity with a worked example using one of the Real Reads texts, together with suggestions about how the activity can be extended for the more able.

Jane Campion has ten years’ experience of teaching English Language and English Literature, and has been a lead teacher for English. She is a member of the English Association Secondary Education Committee, and is currently the editor of the association’s journal for secondary teachers, The Use of English.

Click on the thumbnails below to see sample spreads.

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We are pleased to offer a free copy of Reawakening Literature with every school order of 10 or more Real Reads books that is placed directly with us.

Download our full brochure here

Download our school order form as a PDF here

Download our school order form as an Excel spreadsheet here

Or contact our office directly:

Tel: +44 (0)1635 30890

Email: info@realreads.co.uk