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Decodable books what you need to know

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

So tell me again, what is a decodable… I mean, a decodable book?

We discussed decodable books at the previous school P and C meeting and again last night. I know many parents who want to help their children learn to read yet are lost in the jargon and too busy to research the area. My mission is to help you give your child the best start as they take their first steps in reading, writing and spelling.

And just a note: this is not a sponsored post — I have purchased all books mentioned. Every book or series is in use frequently. I will never recommend something I have not tried.

So what is a decodable book?

In a nutshell, it is a text that only contains words your child can recognise. It is a book containing only the alphabet code previously taught. To begin with, a book might only have small CVC words – consonant, vowel, consonant – for example, cat, dog, cup. Many decodable books use the most frequent letters, such as s a t p i n in the beginning. This is a very popular string of letters because the six letters produce many words. The books move in a sequence. They work in a cumulative nature.

Here is the list of s a t p i n words. Using just those 6 letters produces enough words to make silly sentences, build words and manipulate the letters and sounds to make word chains.

As children learn more sound-symbol relationships, the words in the books grow to reflect the teaching.

Decodable books differ from predictable texts. A decodable book is not one that has the same sentence on each page, just changing the end word and using the picture for help. These books classify under the WHOLE LANGUAGE umbrella.

We shouldn’t expect a child just starting their first year of school to sound out the word alligator, as in the sentence I am an alligator, and on the next page, it might say I am a bear. These books should not classify as first reading books because they don’t explicitly teach any reading skills. They don’t serve any child or non-reader well as they encourage guessing and the weak literacy skills of miss the word and come back to it or look at the picture. Head over to a post all about brilliant decoding strategies here. There are free bookmarks with prompts for parents too.

All schools should use decodable reading books as teaching tools.

The English language has a rather complicated sound system, which must be taught explicitly for all children to read fluently. The decodability of books will change as your child progresses and increases their knowledge of the code.

Decodable books take away the guessing element and lead with a curated selection of words. All decodable books on my shelf engage children from the beginning.

Decodable books encourage children by giving lots of repetition with words and code knowledge previously taught. This enables children to feel successful from the very beginning — maximizing positive interactions with books will ensure growing confidence as your child has increased exposure to print.

24 decodable stories that allow children to repeat already taught phonic knowledge. In the beginning, if we give children connected text that contains only the alphabet code knowledge that we have explicitly taught it will breed success and encourages an 'I can do this' attitude.

The stories work through the initial code plus the 'qu' spelling pattern and double letters ff, ll, ss and zz. The books are available in three formats. Foldable book, A5 and A4. Use the books after instruction, for revision and repetition.

Children often need to read a story more than once. Sometimes this can be hard work for little people. I have created a set of books to keep little ones engaged. Each story has questions to spark conversation. The books have no pictures. The student adds the pictures after the first read. As you read and draw, this helps with code knowledge and comprehension as you talk about the words and meaning and hopefully practice blending to read.

Decodable reading books support all children to achieve

Really reading words, even just small words, helps to make your child feel as if they are learning and developing. Decodable books are short and contain a limited amount of controlled words. When done correctly, this structure can aid comprehension, too, as reading a book is only half the equation. Talking about the elements of the book, the words and pictures help to develop comprehension, conversational skills, and vocabulary.

Decodable books follow a sequence of sounds and can aid spelling as they focus on a set of sounds and spelling patterns. I often use decodable books with older students who are struggling to spell. Often children can easily read a text, but if asked how to spell a word, they find it difficult. The texts can aid a spelling program.

Here are more decodable books I love to use

First reading books for the early years with fun characters and activities.

Phonic books also have many books in their catalogue that span across the primary age range and some great ones for older readers.

Fun, easy-reading stories that will propel your children to the next level. We love the app.

We have all of these stories that are perfect for beginner readers. The beautiful pictures aid great discussions that will develop vocabulary and comprehension. Songbirds are the most popular series of books when I teach kids to read. They are short, well-written stories by the amazing Julia Donaldson with colourful illustrations. Every home, classroom and library should have a set!

Also has a cost-effective app.

Solid, amazing books that have stood the test of time.

All great colourful fun stories to get your children started.

If children do not catch the reading bug early and it all becomes too hard, they can quickly become disengaged as the books read in class only feed their frustrations of 'it is all too hard' and ‘I can’t do this.‘

Reading is hard at first, so don’t be concerned if your child doesn’t get all the words right on each page. At the end of a busy day, instead of your child reading to you, you could share the read, and your child reads 1 or 2 pages, and then you read 1 or 2 pages in a pattern. Correct all errors with kindness, modelling what expert readers do.

Sharing the load with your child will also breed conversation about the book, which will help comprehension.

Decodable books establish good phonics and early literacy skills. Children should also have access to beautiful picture books and be in a print-rich environment of different text forms. Reading together is a marvellous way to encourage a love of stories and reading. However, children will never truly enjoy independent reading without segmenting and blending skills until they move past the sound-it-out phase.


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