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We've been rapidly working our way through Project X's new series CODE. This series features Team X, 4 children with special watches which allow them to shrink to micro-size and two new characters - a younger girl Mini, and a baby Dragon, Rex. The original series was designed to motivate boys to read, and it was absolutely brilliant at this. This series is really designed for children with SEN or delayed readings as means of keeping reading fun and exciting, while also making it easier for a young child to understand. While I believe these books would suit this purpose perfectly the fact that they make reading fun and easy makes them appealing to children without special needs as well. They have however, retained Project X's original premise of very boy friendly titles - that isn't to say girls won't enjoy them - I would have loved these as a child - but the video game style action, robots, vehicles, dinosaurs, space and other themes are certainly very boy friendly.
This particular book is Book 1 in the Shark Dive cluster - which is an underwater theme. The team have a robotic shark shaped submarine in which to explore an underwater world. The mouth serves as the door to the sub, a feature my sons liked as it looks a bit like it is eating the characters.
Each cluster of four books in this series makes up one story, so this book on it's own is more like a chapter or perhaps two chapter as the book is divided into two short mini chapters than a story on its own. I would not recommend this book on its own, but only as part of this cluster, and in all honesty, I do feel that you need the whole set, or least a good portion of the set to really get the full grasp of the storyline or the full educational benefit. There is a two page introduction on each book, but I still do not see this as a stand alone title.
Each cluster in this series is also very much like one level in a video game. there are a few obstacles to overcome, a missing item to find, in this case the code key, and a boss for each level that must be defeated to progress to the next level. The boss for this level is a robotic octopus. This book is very short. It is only 24 pages, and these include the title page, the two page introduction, 2 pages of phonics practice and new words and two pages of questions - so in reality we have 19 pages of story. This book more or less just sets the scene for the future books as the children board the sub and explore the ocean, but there is one short skirmish with the giant orange octopus.
This book is still very easy to read. It is bookband green, level 5. Each page has 1 to 3 short easy to read sentences in clear black print on an off white non- glare background. The book focuses on the phoneme ea as in head, and the most difficult words are "water" and "because" which may be awkward to sound out but are also very common and words most children beginning to read will have come across before. This series carefully build vocabulary so that only a few more difficult words are introduced in each new book, while repetition with a specific phoneme will help children become more proficient at phonetically decoding text.
My oldest son, at age 7, is certainly far too old for this reading level, but he really enjoys the stories and I believe the focus on different phonemes is really helping to improve his spelling, which has been coming along by leaps and bounds. At 4, my youngest is still to young for his book, but he enjoys it as a story and is starting to learn phonemes from this series. He has really shocked us a few times lately pointing to text on new books which have not been read yet and accurately guessing the words, but he not really ready for formal instruction and I am a firm believer in reading readiness . I do believe this series is helping him to edge closer to readiness though, while still having fun and thinking of books as magical
This is a very expensive set. There are 14 clusters of four books each to purchase with prices between £3.28 - £5.00 per book. This is currently £3.32 from the book Depository or £4 from Amazon. My next dooyoo voucher will purchase cluster 11 and hopefully part of 12. This represents a considerable investment, but the children put their Christmas money towards many of these and when a child loves a set of books enough to spend their own money - I am impressed. When those books happen to be phonics primers - I am dumbfounded especially considering how dull many primers can be. For a child to choose school books over video games is absolutely amazing in my opinion. I honestly believe the original Project X worked miracles in my sons reading progress and the fact that set uses phonics is an added plus. I have found most phonics sets to be quite expensive - but this was a commitment we made when we decided to home educate. For other home educators - I really can not recommend this set strongly enough, but if you can afford it, I would recommend it to any family. I believe this sets covers enough interesting topics to get any child interested in reading and the additional instruction in phonics can only be a benefit to any child learning to read or who needs more help with spelling.