Sal McKeown is impressed by an imaginative reading scheme created for struggling readers
DocksideDockside from Rising Stars is a mixed media, "second chance" reading scheme aimed at older primary and secondary pupils who are struggling to read.

Jointly developed with schools and nasen with a soap theme, it has already won national recognition – the 2012 ERA award for Best Special Educational Needs resource.

The emphasis in the early stages is on synthetic phonics so that pupils learn a sound and the different ways it can represented in the English language. A series of cards show the sound in different places in a word, for example "g" is found in hotdog, burger, goal, juggle and guitar.  

The scheme also includes pupil story booklets and audio e-books which can be used on interactive whiteboards or laptops or net books. The series features a soap opera approach where we are introduced to different families who live and work in "Dockside". Young people hang out round the flats in the dock area and in the local youth club.  

It will be useful for children who have problems with sound letter correlation, some children with speaking and listening problems and pupils learning English as an additional language (EAL).

Dockside was developed in conjunction with schools including Bradford Academy. Assistant vice-principal Nicky White describes how it came about: "The students enjoyed soap opera stories such as Waterloo Road and Coronation Street so we wanted something where the students could engage with the same characters across the range of books but at their own level.

"We knew at this point what we wanted in terms of the stories and Dockside was formed; a block of flats in a town on the outskirts of a city where the core characters have their own personalities and issues, things that our students could relate to and engage with."

'There is an emphasis on developing visual literacy too'

Dockside features busy cartoon-style pictures with all the key words for a sound included, but there is an emphasis on developing visual literacy too as they have to identify the key characters, make judgments about such matters as weather or the time of day and see who is happy in the scene and who is angry etc. All these things are really useful for EAL and pupils with listening and speaking problems as they listen out for particular sounds, words or phrases, structure questions and answers, formulate sentences and write them down.

Like all reading schemes the stories are written with an emphasis on teaching points so there is an unnatural amount of repetition and the language can seem stilted at times. The plots are contrived to include certain words or sounds and it is hard to develop any emotional involvement with the characters or the storyline.

What is good about Dockside is that it encourages an active approach to reading and will develop synthetic phonic skills. There are lots of tips and guidance on how to use the scheme and some good case studies from schools already using it. Dockside is very thorough and will be a real time saver for schools.

Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose   5
Ease of use               5
Features                    4
Quality                       4
Value for money        5


The complete school pack of the Dockside reading scheme is on offer for £1,200 and includes: four copies of each of the 75 readers from stages 1 to 6 –- 300 books in total; one copy of each of the starters and stages 1 to 6 teacher's books; Dockside Audio eBooks Library Stages 3 and 4 (with permanent home and school licence); Dockside Audio eBooks Library Stages 5 and 6 (with permanent home and school licence).

Sally McKeownSal McKeown is a freelance journalist. Her book How to Help your Dyslexic and Dyspraxic Child is published by Crimson Publishing

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