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Decodable Books

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Decodable books are short books written with carefully planned words. They are perfect for children who are just learning to read because they can use their just-learned phonics skills to sound out most of the words in each book.

Decodable books are effective because they are backed by years of scientific research on how children learn to read. The human brain is not born with a natural ability to read. No areas of the brain are prewired for reading. Therefore, children MUST be given explicit (clear and direct) instruction on the sound-letter relationship, and then they must be taught how to blend sounds together to form words. This instructional process is called phonics. Decodable books are based on phonics.

Decodable books give children the opportunity to practice phonics skills as they are learning them. For example: After learning these consonant sounds (b, c, m, n, r, s, t) and the short /a/ vowel sound, a phonics program teaches students how to blend those sounds together to make several words: can, man, ran, Sam, bam, cat, mat, bat, sat. If children are then given a Decodable Book that aligns with the skills they just learned, they would be able to read all the words in the book. A decodable book for this example might contain the following sentences: Sam can bat. Bam! Sam ran.

Decodable books reinforce good reading habits and enable beginning readers to read short stories all by themselves. Decodable books introduce new phonics skills in a sequential order, so books in a series become progressively more difficult. Most decodable books also include a few high-frequency words and a few sight words, enabling the author to create engaging stories using natural language patterns. When children are able to read decodable books fluently, they can easily transition to reading other types of books.

Decodable Books are not the same as Leveled Readers. Let’s compare:

When children are first learning to read, use Decodable Books. Once children have mastered the skill of sounding out words, transition to Leveled Readers. Children who start with Leveled Readers often struggle and become frustrated because new words are introduced randomly. This forces them to rely on rote memory and they end up using picture clues to guess words they do not know. The Science of Reading has proven that these are ineffective strategies and recommends the use of Decodable Books to establish and reinforce good reading habits.

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