Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Happy Birthday, Biff And Chips

It is 30 years this week since Roderick Hunt first produced his Oxford Reading Tree Series, to help children learn to read! Liz was already reading by then, and I don't think Steph's school had them in her early years there. But I encountered the Robinson Family often in the various schools where i worked on supply. 
The two main characters were Biff and Chips - the nicknames of the Robinson twins, aka Barbara and David. I am not sure why Hunt chose Barbara - it was hardly a popular name even in the 1980s - less than 1 in 2000 girls. No wonder she opted for a nickname.
 The family also included Mum and Dad, Floppy the dog, and younger brother Kipper [who couldn't pronounce Christopher]
They were a very 1980's Middle Class family! Personally I never really took to them - I am not sure any of the women ever wore skirts. Later on the family included Gran, who was eccentric but good fun, friends Wilf and Wilma, and then Anneena and Sadim. 
But it is a reasonably good reading scheme, and many children like the adventures, so want to read the books. 
There is a plethora of supportive materials to go with the basic story books, and I know many schools are still using this stuff 30 years on.
There is a little confusion though, because many schools used the acronymns WALT, WILF and WILMA as their learning targets [We Are Learning To..., What I'm Looking For..., and What I'm Learning More About...] You can find out about them here
It is interesting to see that in the past 30 years B&C have not really changed that much. Contrast them with the Ladybird "Janet and John" reading scheme. which ran from the 50s to the 70s and desperately tried to modernise itself [and failed!]

And does anyone remember the Billy Blue Hat Series? [I really didn't get on with them!]
Whatever scheme you choose, I am still convinced that the most important thing is regular access to books, with adults and older children reading to the younger ones and helping them until they can read for themselves. 

My experience on Saturday at the Fete On The Field was that most children love storytelling - and enjoy trying out new words. Kindles and Tablets and Laptops and DVDs are useful - but to hold a book and turn the pages and enjoy the words and pictures is a great experience for boys and girls. 
So I am very grateful to Roderick Hunt, and Roger Hargreaves [Mr Men] and Mick Inkpen [Kipper- the dog] Nick Butterworth [Percy Park-keeper] Julia Donaldson [Gruffalo] etc etc etc who have done so much to help really young children love books and reading. 

Do you [or your children or grandchildren] have a favourite Early Years author, or book series?


  1. I'm, so old I remember Janet and John! (and the Terry Wogan version was hilarious). The two eldest had the Blue Hats - very weird I always thought but oddly I have no memory of what the youngest had to learn, will have to ask her.

  2. Laura loved learning to read with Biff and Chip. After reading the books we would hunt for the bone that was always on the floor with other bits and pieces on one page or another.
    I grew up with Janet and John.

  3. We used the Oxford Reading Tree, and it was a great favourite. But secretly, I did like the Ladybird readers!

  4. Words cannot express how much I love Biff and Chip x

  5. I never knew that Biff, Chips and Kipper were nicknames (although what parents would call their children Kipper, or Biff!) We used this scheme a lot. In my first school we used the Billly Blue Hat series - I never really liked them very much. I can't remember what scheme I learned to read on but I have a vague memory of books higher up the scheme "The silver book" or the "gold book" - HAH! I think it may have been "Through the Rainbow"

  6. Thanks for all the comments. I have just remembered Letterland [and the Kicking King] which I thought was superb - the Ruth Miskin Literacy Scheme which I hated because the earliest story books were poorly edited and had errors in them!

  7. I remember Billy Blue Hat and Roger Red Hat but the BEST reading series of all was the Hidden People series with Tim and the Hidden People and the cats Sebastian and Tobias! I LOVED them!

  8. I have never heard of this one Kezzie !

  9. My girls grew up with Biff and Chip, I remember Janet and John, but my favourite children's author remains Shirley Hughes - I just love her books about Alfie and the others x


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