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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 June, 2005, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK
Fruit scheme 'helps reading age'
Delyth Owen
Delyth Owen developed her reading scheme first in Welsh
A new scheme for young children that claims to radically improve their reading age has been launched by a former Welsh teacher from Prestatyn.

The Treehouse Tales is claimed to work better than a "synthetic phonics" system tested in Scotland and England.

Delyth Owen has spent the past six years developing a bilingual series of books.

She originally developed it around fruit and vegetables when teaching Welsh to six-to-seven-year-olds.

The scheme has public backing and is already being tried in some schools.

Mother-of-two Mrs Owen gave up her job at Brynhedydd School in Rhyl last summer to concentrate full-time on her innovative scheme.

It is based around characters such as Aled the Apple and Sally the Snail.

"I found that they had difficulties especially with genders so I decided to draw faces on the fruits and give then names. From then on no child ever forgot," Mrs Owen explained.

She said the scheme used synthetic phonics - where children spell out the sounds of letters rather than their names - but also goes further.

"The children learn spelling and pronunciation at the same time."

Three years ahead

The scheme has the backing of the Welsh Development Agency and Venture Wales and will employ four people.

It uses picture books, poems, and soft toy "characters" like Aled the Apple and Sally the Snail to teach the children skills. There are also teachers' handbooks and accompanying ones for parents.

It worked particularly well for children with special needs and boys, said Mrs Owen.

On average, children who followed the scheme were three years ahead in their reading age.

Teachers and education specialists attended the launch of Treehouse Tales at Oriel House Hotel in St Asaph in Denbighshire on Wednesday.

Among the schools already using the scheme is one in Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire.

Head teacher Nanette Paine said the children at her school were encouraged to generate their own words and the "absolutely loved" Mrs Owen's scheme.

The toys used in the scheme were the vital anchoring links which allowed the children to remember the vocabulary, she said.

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