Moon Dogs Extras – An Independent Review

Ann Sullivan of Phonics for Pupils with Special Educational Needs, is an experienced SEND teacher, who has created her own phonics programme specifically for SEND children.  This is what she has to say about our latest set of Books: Moon Dogs Extras for Catch-Up Readers.

If there is one question I am asked more than any other by teachers, teaching assistants, and parents, it’s this one… “Can you recommend any good reading books?”

Decodable readers are a must. Like all children, those with special educational needs must learn phonics, there’s no better way to learn to ‘lift the words from the page.’ Phonics should and can be made accessible to all children, including those with more than mild SEND. Decodables can be matched to the phonics the child is learning in lessons which means they will be able to read all the words in the books for themselves. This is a great boost to confidence whilst also providing an opportunity for them to apply their growing phonic knowledge and skills to read and enjoy stories. For children with SEND there are a few more things that we need to consider.

Sample page from Moon Dogs Extras showing diverse characters and engaging text.
With engaging stories and diverse and relatable characters these books appeal to older learners.

Multiple opportunities to practice decoding
We know that children with SEND work more slowly through a phonics program because they need lots and lots and lots of experience of learning about new sounds and letters and lots and lots of practice using their knowledge and skills. So, at each stage they need lots and lots of books to read. The Moon Dogs Extra series provide three separate story books for each level (four if you add in the original Moon Dogs 1 series), giving children multiple opportunities to practice their decoding and experience success. They no longer need to be stuck with just one reading book for ages and ages!

With engaging stories and diverse and relatable characters these books appeal to older learners. But there’s more. Children with SEND may begin learning to read later than their peers and take longer so they are likely to be older than other beginner readers. Being given books aimed at 5- and 6-year-olds when you are 10 can be disheartening. The stories and illustrations can seem ‘babyish’ and are not likely to interest, entertain, and inspire them. They need to access books that are age appropriate. Moon Dogs provides stories that are relevant and appealing to older learners and the illustrations cleverly show characters that are ‘age neutral,’ any age reader (up to teenagers) can identify with them and the things they get up to. The language in the books is simple and clear, yet the stories are engaging and fun, centered around a group of friends and their everyday experiences.

Supplementary activity workbook
The workbook that accompanies the readers is a great way to supplement your phonics scheme with activities that are rooted in the context of the book the child is reading. As well as some great ‘phonics activities’ such as Word Building and Filling in the Missing Sounds, there are other activities that address the wider view of reading, not just phonics. These include Retelling the story (with words and visuals) and Make a page for a comic, which work on oral language structure and reading comprehension. There is also an opportunity to provide some independent work using the Word trail cards which require the child to read single words and match to pictures in an activity that is self-checking. All this and there are games in both the books themselves and the workbook.

So, if I am asked the question… “Can you recommend any reading books?” I can easily answer it. “Yes!”


Find the Moon Dogs Extras Books here

Find the Moon Dogs Extras workbook here

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