Review by Emma Cate Stokes

Key stage one phase lead, East Sussex

13 Aug 2023, 5:00


Opening Doors to Ambitious Primary English

By Bob Cox and others


Crown House




22 May 2023

If you’re a primary educator seeking an enriching reading experience that will invigorate your teaching approach and inspire a newfound dedication to your craft, Opening Doors to Ambitious Primary English is the book for you. Written by Bob Cox and his brilliant team, this book serves as an indomitable advocate for a high-quality, inclusive approach to teaching English. Through its pages, it insists that every learner regardless of their starting point deserves ambitious, transformative instruction.

This book is a treasure chest of practical strategies and ideas that burst forth from its easily digestible chapters. Each page is a breath of fresh inspiration designed to suit the needs of time-poor teachers. It prompts ideas and endless possibilities, capturing the sheer delight of exploring texts.

The authors’ passion is palpable as they delve into the heart of storytelling, painting it as a joyous adventure rather than a rote task. The chapters brim with innovative suggestions for teaching a love for stories to learners. Readers are provided with more than just the mechanics of teaching English and are shown the magic and wonder.

From the thrill of discovering a new story to the satisfaction of weaving tales with words, the book brilliantly captures the spirit of narrative and its transformative power in the educational journey.

As a teacher, having taught in multiple disadvantaged areas, the robust current of social justice and equity pulsating through the chapters truly resonates. The children we teach, every one of them, are worthy of ambitious learning opportunities. The book’s approach to pedagogy is not exclusive; instead, it strives for inclusivity, aiming to unlock doors for all young learners.

What makes this book a standout for me are the real-life case studies. Authored by educators brimming with enthusiasm and dedication, these narratives recount their experiences applying the Opening Doors methodologies in their classrooms.

Brimming with innovative suggestions for teaching a love for stories

This first-hand exposure allows readers to visualise how they can tailor these strategies to their unique teaching contexts. It bridges the gap between theory and practice, demonstrating the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of implementing these strategies. Each story serves as a mini blueprint, offering educators an invaluable glimpse into the potential successes and challenges they might encounter in their classrooms.

It’s one thing to read about an ambitious pedagogical approach and another to see it come to life in a real-life classroom setting. With its practical demonstration of concepts, this blend of theory and practice provides a beneficial learning resource for educators, fostering confidence and inspiring application.

However, the book often assumes a certain level of familiarity with the Opening Doors programme, as it frequently refers to it. It could deter new readers or those who are unfamiliar with the programme. Having said that, the well-explained methodologies still stand tall, and this minor issue doesn’t dilute the overall value.

A key feature of Opening Doors to Ambitious Primary English is its beautiful illustrations. Crafted by Victoria Cox, the author’s daughter, these visuals serve as a feast for the eyes, adding a layer of appeal to the material. Their creativity brings a unique aesthetic to the book, complementing the content and theme.

My favourite aspect of the book is its focus on poetry. The authors tackle this issue head-on, providing clear instructions that make teaching poetry more manageable. How the book integrates poetry into its larger vision of an expansive English curriculum is impressive. This approach opens up fresh pathways for teachers to explore poetry with their students.

The book’s essence is empowerment, arming teachers with the tools to foster an immersive, inspiring, and knowledge-rich environment. Opening Doors to Ambitious Primary English is a strong guide for educators dedicated to refining their craft. Its blend of innovative strategies and foundational principles makes it a compelling read for primary teachers. While it might slightly fall short in accessibility for those unfamiliar with the Opening Doors program, it remains an effective, practical tool for educators.

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