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  • Writer's pictureDr. V.S. Gayathri

A Look into Decodable Books!

There are many ways in which a child can learn. For beginning and emergent readers or kids who have a reading difficulty, both parents and teachers can try out different ways in which they can help their child to overcome this. The main idea is to aid in their learning process and give them resources that are easy to interpret for them.

One such resource which is quite helpful for kids who face reading difficulty is decodable books.

What are decodable books?

Research indicates that teaching elementary students phonics is the most reliable way to make sure that they learn how to read words. Hence, there is a lot of focus on reading instruction which focuses on phonic teaching. This concept is also utilized in decidable books.

Decodable books, also often known as phonic readers are books with words that a child can read with their phonic knowledge. They contain words with already known phonic elements.

These books focus on a specific phoneme (sound) or a grapheme (spelling) that the children can practice when reading. Often, they come in a series where the first books in a scheme will have simple words but as the children progress, the complexity of the words will increase and will look similar to other reading books. The only difference is that they will be learning a specific part of the phonic code.

For example, Sam is a fat rat. The rat sat. Here a beginning reader might already know the phonic sound of the separate consonants s, m, and the vowel a. All the words will probably have the same pattern. There might be 1 or 2 high-frequency words like the, which also the child might be already knowing. This boosts the confidence of a child that they can read by themselves. And, also urges them to read more.

Decodable books vs Leveled Books

As we have understood, in decodable books the words are mostly made of letter-sounds which a kid is already familiar with.

On the contrary, leveled books have predictable sentence structures with pictures to emphasize the meaning. They are also categorized according to age and difficulty levels.

Decodable texts can be in the form of:

  • decodable stories with pictures designed for beginning readers

  • decodable stories designed for emerging readers as “chapter books”

  • printable books

How decodable books are helpful?

Research shows that decodable text is to be used during a short period of time when a child is learning to sound out words for the first time. This has shown some benefits for early readers. When kids read decodable books, they try to decode or sound out the words. Some studies state that they are also more likely to read the words accurately.

  1. Decoding automaticity: This is a big asset, especially for early readers. They learn to read and decode independently and look forward to reading more.

  2. Practice opportunity: They practice can the phonics they already know within the context of a story. This also helps them to interpret and comprehend to a certain extent.

  3. Encourages the child to ‘blend’: Here, they can learn through blending rather than guessing unfamiliar words. They are able to read new words on their own.

  4. Develop self-confidence: Since they are able to read on their own, they experience immediate success and develop confidence and enthusiasm for reading. This is like a self-reliant approach for a beginner reader.

  5. Follow a systematic progression: Good decodable books go step by step and don’t teach specific phonics skills or spelling concepts in a disjointed manner.

  6. Independent and Fluent reading: Decodable books are a big step toward fluent and independent reading for emergent readers.

How to choose decodable books?

Decodable books should be:

  • Engaging for the child

  • Match the phonics patterns that you are teaching or they are learning

Sometimes, many feel that decodable books are “too simple or easy” for example there is no opportunity for deep comprehension) or “unnatural sounding” in the case of sound books. However, we can address these problems by

- choosing decodable texts with more natural sounds

- supplementing decodable texts with read-aloud and other texts that might contain some complex concepts and language

Also, you have to make sure that the decodable readers match the phonics scope and sequence that the kid has learned. Because if the phonics skills that they don’t know appear in the text, then it is no longer decodable for them.

How to use decodable books?

If you, as a parent or a teacher, is using a decodable book with a child, you can:

  • Highlight words with a target phonics pattern (this helps the kid to make the connection between a phonics concept and actual reading)

  • Discuss the meaning of the text, always

  • Read the text several times, for fluency practice

  • Respond in writing by using at least some words from the text

Some example of decodable books are:

1. Bob books: Bob Books, written by Bobby Lynn Maslen and illustrated by John R. Maslen, are a series of children’s books designed to teach reading skills acquisition.

2. Osborne books: Usborne Phonics Readers make learning phonics fun. Each title introduces beginner readers to a wide variety of phonemes in a lively, rhyming tale.

3. Spire reader: They have around 120 decodable readers which cover topics in science, social studies, and literature. Multiple reading selections for every concept allow kids to apply new phonics skills to connected text.

4. Dog on a log books: This book series helps kids, including kids with dyslexia, learn to read. They are sound-out books that start with just a few phonics rules.


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