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Moon Literacy

Who Uses Moon?

Adults

Moon has always been considered a suitable reading medium for people who have been print readers and have lost their sight later in life. Many older people are discouraged by the finger sensitivity and effort required to learn braille; Moon enables those people to regain their enjoyment in reading. Moon is also used by adults with learning disabilities. Adults are usually taught by Rehabilitation Officers through Social Services, using learning materials available from the Royal National Institute of the Blind. St Dunstan’s provides tuition for ex-servicemen and women.

Children

In 1994 the "Moon as a Route to Literacy" report from the University of Birmingham showed that children with a severe visual impairment and additional learning difficulties were being excluded from any form of literacy and suggested Moon as the way forward for some of these children. The RNIB responded by setting up the "Moonbase" resource centre at Rushton Hall, a residential school for pupils with a visual impairment and multiple disabilities. The school has since closed but the use of Moon for this group of children has increased over the last ten years and there are now estimated to be over a hundred children learning Moon in the UK. Many of these children are only able to read single letters and individual words but without Moon these first steps to literacy could not have been taken. The research work at Birmingham University continues. See Research

Photograph of fingers reading some dotty moon on clear plastic taken from below

Moon Census

In 2003 a census of young Moon users was conducted on behalf of the Moon Forum.

Copies of the census were sent to everyone on the old Moonbase mailing list. They were also enclosed with RNIB Eye Contact magazine and sent to all schools and VI Services which borrow from ClearVision. They were also handed out at exhibitions, etc.

Replies were received from 50 people working with young Moon readers. Details were given for 88 children under the age of 18. Of these, 65 were learning Moon and 23 were identified as potential Moon readers. 58% of the children were boys. Of the children learning Moon, 50% were aged 12-18.

The census asked for information on the level at which each child was reading Moon. The scale ranged from 1 – being introduced to Moon, to 7 – independent Moon reader.

56% of the children could read no more than individual Moon letters.
77% could read no more than individual words.

4 children were able to read several paragraphs without a break; one was described as an independent Moon reader.

Of the 23 children identified as potential Moon readers, 12 were currently using objects of reference, 8 were using picture symbols, one was using large print, one braille, one "auditory" and two children were not using any of these.

Some personal experiences of Moon

Please click on the links to read the following:

Juliet Stone (former Lecturer at the School of Education, University of Birmingham)
Case History - Florence Boyles
Case History - Joyce Berry
Derbyshire Association for the Blind Newsletter, 2004
A Case for Moon: Oliver Booth
Ian Hebborn from St Dunstan's
Jill Fryer (former Lecturer at Worcester College of Technology)
Jenefer Roberts (Advisory Teacher for Visually Impaired, Suffolk)

Juliet Stone (former Lecturer at the School of Education, University of Birmingham) writes:

Worcestershire Association for the Blind has held classes in Moon for the past few years. These classes were in collaboration with the Worcester College of Further Education and consisted of about 15 adults with a tutor and support assistants. Many of the students said that Moon had transformed their lives.

One 82 year old gentleman said “I hadn’t read for forty years and thought I would never do so again. Now I read a lot, mainly biographies. I’ve read the life of Martin Luther King and others, but now (said with a smile) I’m reading Joan Collins! As soon as I have had my breakfast, I have a good hour’s reading before I do my chores.”

One lady said, “I was never a reader, even before I lost my sight, but with Moon, I can now label my clothes, my CDs and lots of things. Moon has given me back my independence”. Another gentleman said that he uses Moon for his recipes, having just done a cookery course.

One particularly interesting comment was from another lady, in her mid-thirties, who admitted to having no interest in anything when she first lost her sight. She had attempted braille, but gave up immediately. On being introduced to Moon, she learnt it quickly and then was motivated to go on and learn braille, through which she is studying at a College of Further Education. “But I still use Moon, to send notes to my family and friends. They couldn’t be bothered to learn braille, but they mastered Moon and so it is a main form of communication for us.”

Case History - Florence Boyles

Florence Boyles is 84 and lives in North London. She lost her sight late in life through glaucoma and waited two years for an "excellent" braille teacher to be provided by Social Services. She had no trouble writing braille but found she could not read it by touch as one of the side-effects of her diabetes is poor sensitivity in her fingers.

Her teacher advised her to learn Moon but Mrs Boyles was initially reluctant as she felt it was so little known. She started to learn Moon, with the same teacher, at the age of 80, helped by a sighted neighbour who learned it alongside her. All her family have now learned Moon.

Learning Moon was "fascinating" for Mrs Boyles. Having learned the alphabet quite easily she moved on to simple books in Moon and then to books from the National Library for the Blind. She is still a keen member of NLB.

She writes Moon using a hand-frame and "German film".

Mrs Boyles is very enthusiastic about Moon and gives talks to groups as she would like to encourage more people to learn Moon. She would also like to see an increase in production of materials in Moon – especially magazines and short stories as she finds many Moon books too heavy to hold, and multi-volume books rather daunting. She would also welcome the use of Moon for everyday items such as utility bills.

Mrs Boyles sees a need for more teachers of Moon, more books and more publicity for Moon. She would also like to have a nationwide network of Moon readers. She considers that there is a real danger of Moon fading away without more investment and support – and has written to her MP and to others to state the case for Moon.

Florence Boyles remained active in the promotion of Moon until her death at the end of 2006. The Moon Forum is grateful for all her support and encouragement.

Case History - Joyce Berry

“A few years ago, I lost my remaining eyesight completely; the incredible pressure, of this, cannot be underestimated and it took all my strength trying to adapt both practically and emotionally. I wanted, in fact needed, to be able to keep my mind active, by reading.

I learnt Moon, with help from a tutor, and am really pleased with this achievement. I look forward to the books arriving by post and have read my way through a variety of fiction; I particularly like stories about nurses, as it reminds me of my nursing days, years ago! I read in bed in the evening and don't disturb my husband, as there's no need to have the light on!

If further developments could be made with Moon, I would like to suggest the following:

  • some smaller books which could be stored in a bag and brought out when other family members are sitting reading a newspaper, for example, in a café
  • labelling - I would like to be able to label things, in the house, using Moon. Perhaps a machine could be developed, from which labels could be produced
  • a catalogue, in Moon, of all the titles available. This would enable people to independently select what they want to read.

Lastly, if I could have one wish, it would be to have a hymn book and sections of the Bible or related religious teachings, in Moon. I love to sing, in Church, but now have to hum along, as I can't remember the words and am unable to follow new hymns”.

Derbyshire Association for the Blind Newsletter, 2004

A Case for Moon: Oliver Booth

Hi! My name is Oliver Booth and I'm a "Mooner", that's to say I read and write Moon, the alternative to Braille. Struggling to make sense of a pattern of raised Braille dots is not for me. Moon gives me the comparative luxury of feeling familiar shapes.

I am not knocking Braille. It's argued that the system is more suitable for people who lose their sight at an early age, while Moon may be much better for people who have knowledge of printed letters before losing their sight. This also makes Moon more suitable for easier communication between blind and sighted.

Moon is usually written with the aid of a Moon frame which has 140 squares in which to draw Moon letters onto plastic film. I have also successfully experimented with household items like a square of Flotex carpet for a pad, a plastic dish drainer for a frame and all sorts of plastic, card and kitchen foil to produce an embossed effect.

So readers may ask: "If Moon is so good why have so few people heard of it?" They would be justified, because Moon has been around since 1847 when Brighton doctor William Moon gained world-wide recognition for his invention, which he developed because of his dissatisfaction with the embossed systems of the day.

Unfortunately, others hold explanations as to why Moon is not so well known today. I have challenged them for apparently not making people more aware of Moon.

My reason for championing Moon is simple. It is an alternative that is available if people find Braille difficult to master. I believe people should have a choice, otherwise there is no point to campaigns like "The Right to Read".

The National Library for the Blind lends books in Moon and a greater demand for them could well lead to an increase in stocks of books in Moon. However, little or no publicity for Moon could result in little or no demand for the books with the obvious consequences. I rest my case!

The views expressed are entirely those of the author and not of Derbyshire Association for the Blind.

Ian Hebborn from St Dunstan’s writes:

We assess many St Dunstaners new to the charity or whose circumstances have changed. Within the assessment process, one area that is covered is Communications and within this tactile communication - braille and Moon - are included. Our client group reflects fairly well the blind population of the UK and so most St Dunstaners joining the charity will be older and have some remaining useful vision that we look to utilise as best we can. Added to this advances in technology, both with CCTV electronic magnifiers, standalone scanners and access software for PCs, there are few people we see who wish to learn a tactile form of reading and writing.

Having said this, it is something we would certainly explore and encourage where appropriate. We are able to provide training in Moon, and have done so on several occasions, with St Dunstaners returning to our centre in Ovingdean for Moon lessons. Some have wanted to use it for labelling purposes, others for recreational purposes.

During awareness training we tell people about Moon and have the RNIB "This is Moon" cards to give to people who are interested. We recognise the importance of giving our St Dunstaners the opportunity to learn to read using Moon where this is a feasible option to explore.

Jill Fryer (former Lecturer at Worcester College of Technology) writes:

In collaboration with Worcester Association for the Blind I taught a literacy group, consisting of adults with learning disabilities and visual impairment. For one lady in her forties, learning to read Moon opened up her world. A lover of music and composers, the lady was thrilled to be able to read about their lives and label her music collection. In addition, having the ability to label everyday objects helped her gain more independence and in turn boosted her self-esteem.

Jenefer Roberts (Advisory Teacher for Visually Impaired, Suffolk) writes:

I am a qualified teacher of children with a visual impairment and, over the last few years, I have taught the Moon code to several non-sighted children. There is often surprise and interest when people find me teaching Moon rather than braille to these children. "Why is this child being taught Moon?” is a frequently asked question.

A moon book "That's Not My Train"

In nearly all the cases the answer has been that the child has tried to learn braille and has failed at it. It has been found very difficult and the child has sometimes taken an intense dislike to it. Then further attempts to teach braille have foundered. In my experience this has always happened with children who have some degree of learning difficulty or delay. The decision to teach them the Moon letters instead has frequently been greeted with relief by these children, by their parents and by their teachers.

 

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