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Decodable Books: The Key to Unlocking Reading Success for Kids

Decodable Books: The Key to Unlocking Reading Success for Kids

When you learn a new skill, is it always easy the first time someone shows you how to do it? Let’s say you went to a driver’s education class for the first time, and someone showed you how to park a car without letting you try it for yourself. Would you return to the next class the next day and just be able to park perfectly? You might not relate to the driving analogy, but it applies to most new skills we take on.

Regular practice is the best way for students to improve their reading skills, and the practice cannot just be with any random book. Children need to be provided with ample reading material that aligns with their current knowledge and skill level. That’s where decodable texts come in.

These essential resources are designed to integrate with classroom phonics lessons, giving children the opportunity to apply their knowledge to relevant texts without feeling out of their depth. 

Parents and teachers can ensure students’ reading success through decodable books.


How Can Decodable Books Help Early Readers?

Here are some of the many ways in which decodable books can support early readers’ needs.

Build Strong Foundational Reading Skills

The biggest plus with decodable books is that they’re controlled texts, so teachers and parents need to do less previewing or legwork to ensure books contain the needed practice skills without big obstacles. You can pick texts based on phonics patterns (eg., CVC words, vowel pairs, double consonants, CVCe words), providing students with the best opportunity for quality practice.

Decodable books can come with multiple books per skill, allowing children to repeatedly practice the same skills. This ensures that students are developing a strong understanding and grasp of the alphabetic principle in reading. Instead of falling back on guessing strategies, students make a habit of relying on the actual text to read a book.

The ability to have success in reading at such an early stage builds children’s confidence and creates a love of reading, which is key to learning success.

Improve Reading Accuracy

Reading accuracy and fluency are key skills early readers often struggle with. Decodable books target this skill development on a word level, practicing efficient decoding and sight word recognition that’s instrumental for children’s reading development.

When students learn how to sound out words using phoneme-grapheme relationships, they can accurately break down any new words that follow a similar pattern. Repeated exposure to these patterns enhances word recognition automaticity.

When students don’t need to focus on decoding and the process becomes more automatic and instantaneous, they will begin to read fluently, focusing on how the words sound and the melody behind sentences that makes them interesting to read aloud.

Boost Reading Confidence in Early Readers

There’s nothing more disheartening for young readers than not being able to read a complete sentence. Many supporting texts, such as leveled readers that have been “designed” for the classroom, contain high-complexity sounds children haven’t been taught. With decodables, the focus is on removing the obstacles to allow for progress and scaffolding of skills to ensure mastery.

Skills are taught incrementally and build on children’s existing knowledge. This greatly reduces students’ frustration with reading and empowers them with the tools they need to learn to tackle more challenging texts.

At the end of the day, if you fall down every time you take a step, wouldn’t walking be hard? By allowing children the opportunity to take solid steps before throwing challenges at them, we’re giving them the strength and foundation to continually succeed and gain new skills.

Allow Children to Practice Phonics Skills in Context

Despite all the research that supports phonics-based instruction, lessons alone aren’t as effective as those that have students applying their newly learned skills immediately. I have said it before, but if you learn a skill and don’t have the opportunity to practice with that skill, what’s the likelihood that you’ll retain that ability or ever do that skill with ease and competence?

The use of decodable books can also make phonics practice more interactive and engaging. If interesting and possibly humorous texts are chosen, students will feel the benefits of their work immediately by gaining access to new books with their new skills.

Help Children Develop Vocabulary and Comprehension Skills

Teachers can use decodable books to introduce children to new words. Since these texts rely on phonemic patterns, students can learn numerous new words that can be decoded using the same phonics sequence.

This process of decoding and learning improves students’ retention since they’re not asked to memorize vocabulary but rather read it within context. Also, within a decodable book, if students have the tools to decode, they can begin to seek out new words independently. Modeling how to find the meaning of a new word in text is an important skill for students to begin to have, even at the earliest stages.

Repeated interaction within these common words and phrases also advances children’s vocabulary and comprehension. Overall, decodable books help create positive reading experiences that encourage students to seek out reading practice as a fun activity in the classroom and at home.

Decodable Books are a Great Resource for Struggling Readers and English Language Learners

Decodable books rely on research from the science of reading that advocates for an incremental and sound-based approach to reading instruction. This is especially helpful for English Language Learners or students from multilingual households since it targets one phonics pattern at a time. By building upon skills, students, who have the multi-level challenge of learning phonics and the meaning of words, get explicit and scaffolded instruction that ensures a thorough foundation to help with grasping a new language.

The focus on phonemes as the building blocks of words helps struggling readers isolate patterns in spoken words. Children can focus on the pronunciation and spelling of words as separate yet interrelated concepts. 

Decodables also provide an opportunity for personalized learning since they can be integrated into a variety of lesson plans and teaching environments.

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