Decodables… you may ask… what are those? Decodable books are short and simple books that focus on a particular phonetic pattern or word family. Each book uses these sounds with different words to give students practice with a new sound. For example, a beginner decodable book may focus on long A words that are only spelled with the “a_e” pattern. These are great tools for beginning readers or struggling readers because the words are easier to “sound out” or decode. Decodable books are great for young learners to practice their fluency, specifically with targeted phonics patterns and sight words. Let’s take a look at why these decodable books are so important.
When children begin to read, there is typically a systematic approach that allows them to learn certain skills and then build upon them. Decodables are an important part of that approach. When a young child is expected to read a book that is not decodable, this can oftentimes lead to the child guessing words, becoming frustrated, and developing poor reading strategies. When reading a decodable book, he/she is able to use different phonetic strategies to sound out unfamiliar words.
Decodables can be used pretty early on, as long as letter sounds are taught in an intentional manner. What this means is that we often don’t teach letter sounds in a sequential manner – A-B-C, etc. A better approach would be to teach letters and sounds in an order such as S-A-T-P-I-N-C. You may ask, why and how is this helpful? Let’s take a look at a decodable as an example.
These pages are from a Kindergarten level book in the Hooked on Phonics reading program. When we study the sentences closely, we can see that only a few sounds are practiced. The student is working on the short “a” skill – so “at”, “an”, and “ap” are practiced. With this particular decodable, a few simple sight words (I , he, a, and, etc.) may be put into the book as well.
As students master beginning phonetic patterns, more advanced patterns will be introduced with each new decodable. After your child has mastered the “a_e” pattern, he/she may be ready for a decodable that uses varied patterns, such as “eigh” or “ay”.
Decodable books often come in a series or a group of books. Sometimes these are organized by color or number. It is important to first find the right “entry-point” for your child. Your child may already know the short vowel sounds, but struggle with long vowel sounds. Take a look at the books to see the right starting point. Additionally, before reading with your child, take the time to go over the words in the book. You may add an element of fun and create a simple game, such as memory, that your child can play prior to reading.
Let’s take a look at some different decodable series that may help your child take off with reading!
- Hooked on Phonics – This program has been around for a long time! Hooked on Phonics uses a proven, simple and fun method to teach critical reading skills. This is a program that was developed by leading educators and each session takes just 20 minutes or less.
- Learning Dynamics – This is the set I used with my oldest daughter. Each color set indicates a different skill set (short vowels, long vowels, blends, etc.).
- BOB Books – Bob Books is a true first reader series, designed to make helping your child learn to read simple and straightforward. The clean layout, short words, and simple phonics make learning to read a fun and natural step for a child that knows the alphabet.
Hopefully these books will help you get a headstart on reading with your young learner! Are there any other decodable sets that you’ve used in the past? We would love to hear what has worked for you!