"Real books" have been the focus of controversy as critics argue that the use of real books (rather than reading schemes) in primary schools has caused a downturn in reading standards. The evidence for this is, at best, questionable and the controversy has revealed widespread ignorance of what a real books approach means in practice. Robin Campbell argues that, in fact, a real books approach is a very demanding one which requires subtle and sophisticated teaching strategies and prior careful planning of the classroom environment to facilitate the management of learning. It is based squarely on beliefs in the power of stories and in children as active constructors of learning as well as in the key role of the teacher. It also assumes that real books are but a significant starting point for a whole range of literacy activites in the classroom. This is an introduction to, and argument for, the use of real books as part of a whole language approach to teaching literacy.