Why Are Decodable Books So Important for Beginning Readers?
The sheer volume of reading material targeting beginner readers makes it easy for teachers and parents to get lost. From leveled readers to predictable texts, there’s a lot to choose from.
But just because a book is being marketed to you doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for your students. Just because a book has a stamp or sticker saying “beginning reader,” “level A,” or “getting started,” doesn’t mean the words can be read by beginning readers.
Research shows that sounding out words using phonics instruction drastically improves children’s reading and comprehension. Decodable books for beginners are the best resources to integrate phonics lessons with reading practice, and this post will explore exactly why decodable books can make such a big difference in young readers’ reading journey.
1. Build Strong Reading Foundations
Many leveled, patterned, and predictable texts teach students to guess unknown words based on context. As a result, students often end up memorizing the reading material being taught but can’t apply that knowledge to unfamiliar text.
Students need to be able to approach words with sound-spelling knowledge, not with the use of pictures or context to help them guess. For example, if a student can decode the word “cat,” they know that the sounds (phonemes) and their written symbol (grapheme) in that word are /k/ – c, /a/ – a, and /t/ – t. As students learn more sound-spellings and gain mastery of those already taught, students begin building the foundation for growth in reading.
It can be argued that the most notable teaching done in elementary school is teaching students HOW to learn. By giving students the tools to figure out words and approach text, we’re giving them the keys to learning, rather than just a handful of memorized words or strategies that might not work in all situations.
Example of scaffolding:
Step 1: CVC words, such as “sad”
I am sad.
Step 2: Adding blends that increase the length of a word, without changing the sounds needing to be learned, such as “sand”
Tim is sad in the sand.
Step 3: Adding in new sound-spellings like digraph combinations, such as in “shed”
I am sad that the sand next to the shed is wet.
Step 4: Adding in new rules, such as the long vowel switch when sneaky “e” is added to the end of a word, such as in the word “shade”
Let’s make a sandbox in the shade of the shed.