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Updated: Feb 13

It would be amazing if we learned to read by osmosis—unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

Check out our decoding strategy bookmarks for your home and classroom.

The pack contains several different bookmarks to use.

Some have prompts to use with early readers.

Others have prompts for readers who are decoding more complex words.

There are also bookmarks that help you prompt your child to ask for help. Some children won't ask for help even when they are struggling, so it can be encouraging to discuss the need to ask for help.

I know there are children who just learn to read; I have one—my eldest child, but most children need explicit instruction to become fluent readers.

When your child brings home a school reading book for the very first time…it’s exciting. Daunting too, but oh so exciting. They have started their journey towards a literate future.

In the beginning, all children sound like little robots — fluency will come.

It’s hard to go back and remember what it was like learning to read 20, 30 or even 40 years ago. So when your child stumbles, it’s difficult to know what to do.

It is hard work being a parent—actually, it’s exhausting! A busy job, school sport, other activities and that family dinner you forgot about. The school reader can sometimes play second fiddle, and when you get to it, everybody is tired. Setting up a routine that suits your family is the best way to start a positive habit.

The number one question I am asked is, what do I do when my child gets stuck?

So, a while ago, I made a set of bookmarks for the families I work with as a set of prompts to help when reading.

I hope your school sends decodable readers home and reads authentic texts with your child daily.

I made these additional bookmarks because a conversation with parents last night made me realise that the term decoding has still not entered the vocabulary of many parents yet. So I did a quick sketch note and made these other bookmarks last night–click here to grab the bookmarks and poster.

I had the pleasure of working with Teachstarter recently as they recreated the bookmark for their site! Check it out here.

In the beginning, to kick start the learning to read journey, decodable readers are the most effective way.

If your child stumbles on a word when they are reading–knowing what to do and how to prompt them is key to building their confidence and their literacy skills.

Always bring it back to the word. I love pictures, picture books are my favourite kind. However, the picture is not there to help your child learn to read–the picture is there to add to the experience. Using the picture as a cue will develop bad habits.

Try this when stuck

  1. Always stop and look at the whole word from left to right.

  2. Swipe your finger under the whole word and show your child how to sound out the word. Connect the sounds as you do this. Say each sound as you run your finger under each letter, blending the sounds as you go. In the beginning, short decodable words are best because they are easy to sound out – words like cat, dog, cup, etc. As your child makes progress, the individual letters will become letter strings (graphemes). /ch/ /i/ /p/ /b/ /oa/ /t/

  3. Once you have shown your child this strategy, the next time they get stuck–prompt them to stop, look through the whole word, and sound out the letters swiping their finger under each letter matching to the sounds they are saying. Connecting the sounds to blend as they read.

  4. If they don’t know a sound, just prompt them. Segmenting and blending sounds are skills that take lots of time and repetition. It takes many exposures for most children to develop the sound to symbol correspondence. It takes time!

  5. Once your child has blended the sounds together and says the word – prompt them to check if it makes sense. Lifting the print off the page is one thing — but checking it makes sense is the complete package.

  6. I always say… “mmm, let’s just check that” – I blend the sounds showing the letter-sound correspondences with my finger. We do this together, and I ask them to repeat it. Next, we have a quick chat about the word.

If your child brings home a book that is a predictable text

You know, the ones with the same line on each page, but one of the words is different – usually the last word.

I see an alligator

I see a zebra

I see a fish

This is tough, children in the early years can’t really read this type of book, and most just memorise the words without knowing what they are doing–the picture does the talking–this is really barking at print! No meaning can come from this type of text. There is no cumulative learning here.

But these are the books you have – so what to do!?

The SPELD decodable books are my favourite free resource.

Download these free decodable books to read with your child or class. This is a brilliant idea for home readers. SPELD South Australia has free decodable books that work on an iPad. I have not used them this way, but their website has directions. I have some I have printed and I use them as little books.

But your school will still expect you to read their books.

Here is what I would do with a predictable text.

First, read the book to your child. Read the book again, and this time stop and sound out the words to show your child what to do. This shows your child what a fluent reader sounds like and shows your child what to do to sound out words to lift the print from the page.

As you read each page with your child, break up each word into the smallest units of sound. Use your finger to segment each word to show the sound-symbol correspondence before blending to read.

When you have read each page, and there are never many – write out each sentence on a piece of card and cut it up into individual words–get your child to match the words to the sentence on the page.

Have your child read the sentences again. This is not reading – this is exposure to print.

And it all begins again with the next book. Learning to read is a journey. It takes time – stick with it and if you feel there is an issue, have a chat with your teacher, and if need be, find a speech pathologist or literacy tutor that works from a speech-to-print systematic program to get a second opinion.

You can also download a free word building poster and alphabet tiles. Games are great for building the blending and segmenting skills needed for early reading success.

A couple of articles that are quick to read and are full of usable information

Here are all the other free decoding strategy resources I can find!

Lyn Stone has created a Decoding Dragon to ward off those ineffective strategies.

Pam Kastner has come up with a great acronym to help little learners

remember what to do

Amy Manning has come up with a brilliant bookmark – just perfect for the

early years.


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