What are decodable readers?
Decodable readers are an important tool in the teaching of reading. Decodable readers are books written specifically for beginning readers to practice their decoding skills, as they contain words and sentences that can be broken down into smaller recognizable pieces or “chunks” of information. Decodable reader texts focus on specific phonemes (sounds) taught in a systematic and explicit way, which allows students to decode words with greater accuracy and fluency. Decodable text also provides repetition of learned sight words and phonics patterns, allowing students to become more confident in their ability to read independently.
When using decodable readers, it is important for teachers to select texts at the appropriate level for each student. Decodable readers should provide students with just enough of a challenge to keep them engaged, but not so difficult that they become frustrated or give up. Decodable readers can help teachers differentiate the instruction for their students and allow them to progress at their own rate.
Do Your Decodable books limit vocabulary?
They don’t have to.
A famous study from 1966 found that English is really very consistent. We just don’t teach the patterns that already exist in our language. No conspiracy here. Modern phonics has only been around since the early 1900’s (a short time compared to the age of English) and there is still room for lots of improvements.
English Can Be 95% Decodable!
Decodable books/text/vocabulary are based on a really valuable and simple idea: Don’t confuse your kids when they are reading.
Decodable words fit this description: Letters make the same sound all the time – predictably and consistently.
Using standard phonics, this definition leaves out 1/4 to 1/2 of English.
Here is how to put the rest of our words back into every book without making heads spin. The 1966 findings, called the Hanna Study, said that you can predict the sound letters will make if you notice how they are used in a word.
For instance, the difference between “y” making the first sound in yes instead of the E or I sound (as in baby or by) is its position in a word. When “y” is used as the first letter in a word it says the first sound in yes or yellow. The E and the I sounds are made when “y” is the last letter in a word.
In our research and developement (more accurately termed 6 years of trial and error or cut and paste!) we found even more predictability. You can tell when “y” at the end of a word will make the I or E sound based on word length most of the time. At the end of 2 or 3 letter words “y” says I. At the end of words with 4 or more letters it says E.
yellow, yes, yet, you, your, young
by, try, cry, my, fly, (key is an exception)
lady, baby, funny, honey
More Proof: First, at the beginning of this century the Abbott study, confirmed the accuracy of English as described by the Hannas back in 1966. Second, after we put together a system of phonics that was built around how letters were used in a word we tested it.
We found two things that made us ecstatic about our phonics program.
– In 95% of our phonics rules 1 letter = 1 sound
– In the first 5 chapters of Proverbs in the New American Standard English translation, 95% of the words work using our phonics rules.
That means only very few lessons in our phonics require a reader to “try a few sounds to see which one makes sense”. It also means that for 95 out of 100 words our phonics tells a reader exactly how to pronounce a word.
Now, for the big breakthrough: By definition, English is 95% decodable and has been all along. You don’t have to confuse your young readers. Nor do you have to narrow their reading horizons.
Again, we did not change any part of our language. We did not come up with new patterns of letters that are used together (these patterns are often called phonemes or phonograms). We just observed and used patterns that were already there.
Using decodable readers in the classroom
Using decodable readers in the classroom is an effective way to supplement reading instruction and build confidence in beginning readers. Decodable text provides practice with decoding skills, develops fluency and accuracy when reading, increases understanding of concepts about print, and strengthens sight word recognition. When used appropriately, decodable readers can be an excellent resource for building a strong foundation in early literacy development.
How to select decodable texts
When selecting decodable books, it is important for teachers to find high-quality materials that meet the needs of their students. Decodable readers should be age-appropriate, engaging, and include words and sentences that contain the phonics pattern being taught. Decodable readers can also be supplemented with worksheets, activities, and other resources to help reinforce the message of the text.
Overall, decodable readers are a valuable tool for teaching reading skills in any classroom setting. Decodable texts provide an effective way to practice decoding skills, build confidence in beginning readers, and supplement traditional instruction. To maximize the effectiveness of decodable texts, it is important for educators to select appropriate books at each student’s level and supplement them with additional activities as needed. With the right selection of materials and instructional strategies, decodable readers can be an invaluable tool for literacy development.