Decodable books, stories, and passages are texts that the author limits the word choice to include an abundance of the pattern currently taught, as well as exclude patterns that have not yet been taught. The goal of a decodable text is to promote repeated phoneme-grapheme correspondence in the brain, as we know that this is one of the skills needed to store words in the brain’s longterm storage (via orthographic mapping). A common misconception is that there is no use for decodables past the very early grades. Until a student is a fully competent decoder, decodable texts are still beneficial. Here is an example: Jonah is in second grade. Learning to read has been challening for him, but Jonah is making progress with short vowel patterns and gaining fluency with words, phrases, and sentences. Jonah is now learning the vowel-consonant-e syllable type (or magic e), and this is proving to be difficult for him as his brain wants to say the short vowel sound instead of the long. Jonah would benefit from reading various decodable texts that target the vowel-consonant-e pattern. For some students, their acquisition of the various orthographic features of our language may come somewhat swiftly with anywhere from 1-4 exposures. The reality is that most students will need somewhere between 5-20 exposures to a pattern before their brain recognizes it automatically. Decodable texts provide the needed practice and exposures for growing readers, at any age!
Ehri, L. C. (1998). Grapheme-phoneme knowledge is essential to learning to read words in English. In J. L. Metsala & L. C. Ehri (Eds.), Word recognition in beginning literacy (p. 3–40). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
Ehri, L.C. (2014) Orthographic mapping in the acquisition of sight word reading, spelling memory, and vocabulary learning. Scientific Studies of Reading 18(1).
At Ready Reader Decodables, we are committed to supporting our followers with their personal development and understanding the English language. One of the reasons the English language can appear dense is that our language is a compilation of other languages. Just as we consider our population, we can consider our language a “melting pot” with many linguistic influences.
Linguists agree that the primary influences are as follows:
Anglo-Saxon (Old English): common high frequent wordssuch as the, from, man, child, house, friend, earth, water, numbers 1-100, colors, animals, etc.
Latin: transport, misconduct, disappoint, infect, doctor, religion, student, library, grammar, words that end in the suffixes -tion, -ity, -ism, -ology, words that begin with the prefixes re-, in-, con/com-
Greek: many scientific and medical words, words that contain the digraph ch as /k/ (Christmas, school, chaos, orchid), words that contain the digraph ph as /f/, words that contain the medial y as short /i/ (gypsy, crystal, mythical).
French: antique, boutique, ch as /sh/ (chauffeur, chez, chaise-lounge, chateau)
As your children and students are developing their decoding skills using our phonetically controlled decodable readers, you can also incorporate little “nuggets” of language knowledge to support their ongoing progress.
Interested in learning more? Here are a few great resources:
The rising popularity of the science of reading has brought many instructional shifts, and one that has taken the forefront of the SOR conversation is the transition of a wall consisting of words (word wall) to sounds (sound wall).
So, what exactly is a sound wall?
A sound wall is an instructional tool used to visually represent the 44 phonemes of the English language and their corresponding graphemes or spellings.
What does a sound wall look like?
Traditionally, a sound wall would have two major components: consonant sounds and vowel sounds. This visual feature in a classroom would replace the slightly antiquated word wall and be posted on a wall or bulletin board that is easily seen by students. As the teacher provides direct instruction with the graphemes (spellings) and their corresponding phonemes (sounds), the taught grapheme is listed under the corresponding phoneme. So, for example, once a teacher explicitly taught the -ck digraph as a common spelling for the sound /k/, the -ck would be listed under the /k/ phoneme. Students can then use it as a reference as they spell words.
What’s wrong with a word wall?
A word wall primarily targets only the initial sound in a word and lists it under its corresponding letter. Identifying initial sounds is important, but it is a phonological skill that should be solidified by mid to late Kindergarten. This also does not account for the 200+ graphemes that represent the sounds in the English language.
Overall, a sound wall takes a “speech to print” approach. We know from the extensive work of researcher Dr. Louisa C. Moats, that this theoretical shift in our approach to reading and language instruction supports the notion that learning to speak is natural, while learning to read is not. By teaching our students that letters represent the sounds that come out of our mouth and make up words, we are promoting a speech to print understanding. In addition to targeting students’ proficiency with phoneme-grapheme correspondences, a sound wall can also address articulatory features of letters and sounds, which enhances a students’ ability to correctly form the phoneme.
Many sound walls utilize the “vowel valley” which specifically places the location of the vowel sound in relation to where it’s formed in the mouth. A Vowel Valley encourages students to be keenly aware of their mouth formation, which further reinforces their automaticity with the sounds.
Sound walls address key components of foundational reading skills, such as:
a) articulatory features of phonemes
b) phoneme-grapheme correspondence
c) support with orthographic processing
Is this level of detail necessary?
According to Dr. Louisa T. Moats: Yes, “Because young students with underdeveloped phonological awareness often confuse the speech sounds that share features.” (LETRS Training Manual).
In short, the addition of a sound wall to your classroom provides your students additional pathways to develop and secure their foundational reading skills.
Want to add a sound wall to your classroom? Click here or on the image below:
There is no denying the importance of letter and sound identification for developing readers, but are both skills of equal importance? For many students, the ever-popular Alphabet Song is their first real exposure to the alphabetic principle. But a quick analysis of the song reveals some missing components: letter sounds. Do the letter names really matter? Let’s take a quick moment to consider the association between the letter name and the phoneme (sound) it most commonly represents. Of the 26 letters, here are the 14 consonants that include the phoneme (sound) in the actual name: B, D, F, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, S, T, V, Z
The 5 vowels will only include the phoneme (sound) in the name when they represent their authentic “long” sound as seen in the following words: a, I, she, cute, and open.
The research of Dr. Linnea Ehri confirmed what many of us suspected: students must learn the names, sounds, identify both upper and lower case, and the formation of all 26 letters. These foundational skills are a prerequisite for the development of automatic word reading (Ehri & Roberts, 2006). So what comes first? The chicken or the egg? Or rather: does the evidence indicate a preferred order for teaching letter names vs. sounds?
Let’s look at a few summarized points from the research of Dr. Theresa Roberts (2021):
Learning letter sounds (LS) was not dependent on first learning the letter names (LN) (Roberts,
The authors were surprised to find that children could learn the LS and LN together in the same
lesson (Roberts, 2021)
No effect was identified teaching LN before LS (or vice versa) (Roberts, 2021)
BUT teaching LS first produced greater letter sound learning for groups receiving the most PAL
(Paired Associated Learning) instruction and practice. (Roberts, 2021)
So where does this leave us as reading instructors?
In addition to the above evidence, Dr. Ehri also found that students who received Letter Sound and Leter Name instruction using Embedded Pictographs (the name of each picture begins with the sound of the letter and the pictured objective helps secure the letter-sound association in memory) were more secure with their LS and LN knowledge. This information is clearly impactful to reading instructors who historically, have posted Anchor Pictures for the alphabet with a key picture that starts with the letter sound BUT whose shape is unrelated to the letter. This seemingly simple adjustment in our instructional practice could have key benefits for our developing readers.
Luckily, Ready Reader Decodables has got you covered. Our Alphabet Letter Sounds: Embedded Picture Mnemonics Bundle has over 300 pages of activities that promote the Alphabetic Principle. Perfect to print and post in your classroom, this product contains flashcards of each letter with the key word’s illustration embedded in the shape of the letter. Developed with the scientific evidence in mind, this bundle is a great addition to a pre-k, K, 1 st , or 2 nd grade classroom. You can access the link to download here.
Thankfully, leading reading researchers have done the legwork for us as we consider the particulars of our Letter Name and Letter Sound instruction. And though the Alphabet Song remains as many students’ starting point for letter acquisition, we now know that embedded mnemonics certainly hold a key place, as well.
Citations: Ehri, L.C., & Roberts, T. (2006). The roots of learning to read and write: Acquisition of letters and phonemic awareness. In D.K. Dickinson & S.B. Neuman (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research (Vol. 2, pp.113-131). New York, NY: Guilford. Ehri, Linnea. (2020). The Science of Learning to Read Words: A Case for Systematic Phonics Instruction. Reading Research Quarterly. 10.1002/rrq.334. Roberts, T.A (2021). Learning Letters: Evidence and Questions From a “Science of Reading” Perspective. Read Res Q, 00(00), 1-22.
Ready Reader Decodables are a valuable resource for implementing individualized, systematic, and explicit reading instruction in a small group setting. They are specifically designed to support early readers in developing their decoding skills, fluency, and comprehension abilities. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to effectively use Ready Reader Decodables with your students!
1. Assess and group students:
Begin by assessing students’ reading abilities to identify their instructional needs. Group students together with similar reading needs to ensure targeted instruction and maximize their progress.
2. Select appropriate decodable texts:
Align your students’ needs with the specific phonics patterns in the Ready Reader Decodables books. Our books gradually increase in complexity. Ready Reader Decodables include TWO stories for each phonics skill to provide layers of differentiation for your students.
3. Introduce the text:
Before reading the decodable text, introduce it to the students. Preview the cover, title, and pictures, and engage students in a brief discussion to activate their prior knowledge and build anticipation for the reading. This step helps set the purpose for reading and generates interest.
4. Pre-teach unfamiliar words or concepts:
Identify any unfamiliar words or concepts in the text that students may not know. Each book includes a list of high frequency words in the story. Pre-teach these words or concepts to ensure students have the necessary background knowledge to understand the text.
5. Focus on decoding skills:
Ready Reader Decodables are designed to help students practice their word recognition skills. Guide students through the text, providing explicit instruction on phonics patterns, letter-sound relationships, blending, and segmenting syllables. Encourage students to use decoding strategies, such as sounding out or chunking instead of guessing or relying on picture clues.
6. Build fluency:
Reading fluency is an important component of comprehension. Help students develop fluency by modeling fluent reading and providing opportunities for repeated reading of the decodable text. Encourage students to read the text multiple times, individually or in chorus, to improve their accuracy, prosody, and expression.
7. Promote comprehension:
While decodable texts primarily focus on decoding skills, it’s crucial to also address comprehension. Engage students in discussions about the text, asking questions to check their understanding and encourage critical thinking. Make connections to their prior knowledge and real-life experiences to deepen comprehension.
8. Provide individualized support:
In a small group setting, it is vital to provide individualized support to each student. Observe each student’s reading behaviors closely and provide immediate feedback, guidance, and corrective instruction as needed. Address specific challenges or errors your student encounters and offer strategies to address them.
9. Monitor progress:
Continuously monitor students’ progress and adjust instruction accordingly. Keep records of their reading achievements, note areas of improvement, and identify areas that require additional practice or intervention. Regularly reassess students’ reading abilities to guide their instructional path.
By following these steps and utilizing Ready Reader Decodables effectively, you can create an individualized, systematic, and explicit approach to reading instruction in a small group setting. This approach ensures that students receive targeted support and practice to develop their reading skills, leading to improved decoding, fluency, and comprehension abilities.
As experts in literacy instruction and long-time advocates for evidence-based practices, the authors of Ready Reader Decodables are often asked how to meet the needs of all early readers. This is a question that has garnered much attention and debate over the years. The science of reading tells us how ALL brains learn to read and our two levels of books for each phonics skill help students attend to all strands of the reading rope.
It is important to recognize that all students have different needs and abilities when it comes to learning to read. Some students may struggle with phonemic awareness or decoding skills, some struggle with vocabulary and background knowledge, while others may have difficulty with sight word recognition. Therefore, it is important for educators to provide a range of Structured Literacy reading materials that cater to each student’s individual needs.
Decodables: Adapting for Students’ Needs
Decodable texts are a crucial component of this early literacy instruction. These types of texts provide students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge of phonics in a meaningful context. However, as students progress in their reading development, they need exposure to more complex text that incorporates a greater number of sight words and more complex vocabulary.
Sight words (any word a student has stored in long-term memory for instant recognition) are essential for fluent reading. They make up a significant portion of written language. By introducing students to decodable texts that systematically add in sight words, students are able to make the transition from simple, phonetically-decodable words to more complex text that includes a variety of sight words and vocabulary.
Ready Reader Decodables Support ALL Learners
Ready Reader Decodables offers two levels of decodable books for each phonics skill. This format provides students with the opportunity to develop their phonic decoding skills while also building their sight word recognition and fluency. By gradually increasing the complexity of the text, students are able to make the transition from simple decodable text to more complex, multi-syllabic words and phrases. Ready Reader Decodables understands the demands of the reading brain. Our multifaceted books and comprehension questions support our early readers and are aligned with the science of reading.
Ready Reader Decodables is passionate about supporting students of all backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities. We include diverse characters throughout our books so that every child can see himself reflected in the stories he reads.
Science of Reading and Decodables
The science of reading tells us that skilled reading is a combination of language comprehension and word recognition. At Ready Reader Decodables we are intentional about the level of support our illustrations provide. We do not want our early readers to rely on pictures and context clues to decode unfamiliar words. Instead, we aim to provide a structured framework of skills taught in a simple to complex manner. Once taught, the students read connected text with those skills embedded in the stories. Students are set up for reading success!
Decodables to Support Language Comprehension
But Ready Reader Decodables does not stop at the phonic decoding step. We also support students’ language comprehension skills by including comprehension questions, vocabulary, higher-level inferencing, and intentional connections to the reader’s background knowledge. We strive to promote and include ALL students through our comprehensive approach to structured literacy.
We look forward to expanding our already diverse group of characters as we write more Ready Reader Decodable books. Set 2 is coming out very SOON! This set will focus on the digraphs sh, ch, th, wh, and -ck. Follow our blog and Instagram @ReadyReaderDecodables for coupons and special pre-ordering details!
Thank you for your interest in our decodable books and for the inclusion of all students in your classrooms.
There are long-standing myths about phonics instruction. Keeping these myths alive (and thus keeping phonics instruction from our students!) undermines a student’s reading acquisition. As educators, we must constantly look to the current research and adjust our instruction accordingly. The National Reading Panel recommended systematic phonics paired with phonemic awareness as two crucial components to foster efficient word reading. Current research still supports those findings. It tells us that word recognition (through phonic decoding) and language comprehension are the building blocks for skilled reading. So, if 50+ years of research supports a systematic phonics approach, why are we not providing that for all our students?
There are likely many reasons, but several can be attributed to myths about phonics instruction.
Myth #1 Any Phonics Will Do
Although the recommendations of the National Reading Panel are still supported by science, there is great debate on how to teach students to become proficient readers. Many current curricula and teaching practices adopted portions of the National Reading Panel’s recommendations, but they lack implementing phonics in a systematic and explicit manner. For example, they sprinkle in phonics components guided by student spelling errors or sounds in the students’ names. Some approaches encourage multiple strategies for reading an unfamiliar word. These include using picture clues, context clues, guessing, and phonic decoding. However, the science tells us that proficient readers do not rely on context clues to read. So, by teaching these compensatory reading strategies, we rob our students of opportunities to orthographically map words (the cognitive process by which we store words for automatic retrieval).
Research is clear on which phonics approach is most effective. It needs to be systematic and explicit. The students move from simple phonics skills to more complex skills. Students in kindergarten and first grade will spend more time learning letter-sound correspondences, reading in decodable texts, and using their phonics knowledge to help them spell words. As they progress through the systematic phonics, they will foster their skills of reading comprehension and language by reading a
variety of texts, utilizing the morphological units of words for spelling, and engaging in advanced written expression activities.
Myth #2: Phonics is Boring for Children
Some portray phonics as robotic and void of engagement. Although quality phonics instruction requires direct instruction and repetition of skills, teachers can employ many engaging techniques to keep the learner focused and energized. Consider some of the following techniques:
Make it multisensory! While the multisensory approach utilizes several modalities to optimize learning, it also makes the learning more engaging. Ask your students to trace with their fingers as they read or to tap out the individual sounds as they spell. They will enjoy jumping for rhymes and swooping under words as they combine syllables.
Practice phonics skills with a game. My students love phonics games like matching pairs of words in Go Fish or Memory. They read the targeted phonics skill in the game, but don’t even realize they are learning!
Get up and MOVE! Go on a scavenger hunt for beginning sounds, lay out sight words and have your students jump from one to the next, toss bean bags to the correct vowel sound, or hop for each syllable in a word. They sky is the limit when you add movement into your phonics lessons.
As part of a structured literacy approach, phonics does need to be explicit and systematic. But weave in games, multisensory techniques, and overall movement to make the instruction engaging.
Myth #3 Too Much Time Spent on Phonics Takes Away from Reading Comprehension
Phonics instruction is an integral part of a structured literacy approach. It is one foundational piece that helps support reading comprehension, instead of taking away from reading comprehension. Quality phonics instruction teaches the student to attend to all letters and their corresponding sounds. Building this connection between speech sounds and letters leads to orthographic mapping and fluent word reading. When a
student reads fluently, he no longer uses as much working memory to decode. Instead, he can use that cognitive energy to comprehend the text. Studies show that direct phonics instruction leads to gains in word reading and reading comprehension scores.
MYTH #4: English is too Irregular for Phonics
87% of English words are decodable. That leaves a lot of work for direct phonics instruction! This implies that only 13% of English words are non-phonetic (not following the patterns/rules of the English language). Many of these types of words are adopted from other languages such as banquet from French, bagel from Yiddish and patio from Spanish. Explicitly explain the origin of these types of words so that they are not “irregular” to your students.
Other non-phonetic words include our function words (to, do, of, a, the,) as well as the many Old English words which changed pronunciation during the Great Vowel shift. While their spellings did not change, their pronunciations have changed many times. They include words such as great and could. Teach your students the etymology of these words. They will enjoy learning the “why” behind these irregular spelling patterns.
For example, many teach the word have as an irregularly spelled word. This description would be accurate if the only job of the silent e is to make the vowel sound long. However, the silent e has many other jobs. In the case of have, the addition of the silent e goes back hundreds of years. In the 16th century, scribes wrote the same symbol for -v- and -u-. They added on a silent e to words ending in -v- so that the reader knew to pronounce the letter with a /v/ instead of an /u/. Knowing this explains the spelling of high frequency words like love and have.
We should encourage students to attend to all of the regular letter-sound correspondences in a word first and then focus on any “irregular” part(s). Using the example above, the word have has three sounds. All three sounds follow the regular letter-sound correspondence. Walk your student through those letters/sounds and then teach him the reason for the silent e on the end.
MYTH #5: Only a Small Percentage of Students Need Phonics
Close to 60% of students require explicit, systematic phonics instruction to break the code of reading. The other 40% of students learn to read with a broad range of reading instruction. But to be able to decode novel, multi-syllabic words, ALL students benefit from phonics.
Insufficient phonics instruction in early grades can impede students’ reading ability in later grades. If we encourage students to rely too heavily on context clues and pictures, they will not build a strong sight word vocabulary (words they can recognize instantly). This will affect their reading fluency, spelling, and comprehension.
By directly teaching phonics, we give students a solid foundation of decoding skills. This increases the likelihood that they will be able to read complex texts—containing unfamiliar words—independently.
So, I hope that you will consider these myths about phonics instruction as you plan your instruction, take part in phonics lessons, or choose your curriculum. We owe it to our students to provide them with a systematic phonics approach as part of an overall, structured literacy approach.
A decodable book focuses on one new grapheme (sh or ă), spelling pattern (the drop e rule when adding a suffix), or morphological unit (prefix re-). It uses a controlled set of vocabulary with spelling patterns and morphological units that have already been explicitly taught to the student. This way, students are encouraged to use the text to decode and not pictures or context clues.
Why do we use decodable books?
Especially in the earlier stages of literacy instruction, decodable books require students to use their phonic decoding skills instead of guessing. While this reading approach has long been used for students with the Orton Gillingham approach and students with dyslexia, current research tells us that this is the correct reading approach for ALL students!
“We TEACH reading in different ways; they LEARN to read proficiently in only one way. Teaching is what we do- learning is what their brains do.“
Dr. David Kilpatrick
Reading decodable texts helps lead to orthographic mapping. Orthographic mapping is the long-term, efficient way that readers seemingly read “by sight.” But in fact, traditional readers do not use their visual memory at all for reading those words “by sight.” Instead, orthographic mapping builds the relationship between letters and sounds to bond the spellings and pronunciations of words in the most efficient manner. Once a word is correctly orthographically mapped, the reader does not have to laboriously decode it each time he encounters the word. Instead, the word becomes permanently stored (“mapped”) as a sight word for future, instant recognition. This improves fluency and allows the brain to focus its energy on comprehending the text…the ultimate goal of reading!
What is the difference between a decodable book and a leveled book?
Both types of books improve fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. At some point both types should be a part of a reader’s personal library. While a decodable book focuses on one phonic/spelling pattern, leveled books combine many phonetic patterns, sight words, and vocabulary. As the word knowledge, vocabulary, and sentence structure increase in difficulty, the level of the book increases. Depending on the difficulty of these components, publishers “level” the text accordingly. Some companies use letters A-Z and some use numbers to level, but they all increase in text difficulty. Leveled reading texts use the terms Independent, Instructional, and Frustration levels to assess a student’s reading ability within a level.
For most students, the use of leveled readers is appropriate after the students have mastered many of the decodable reading strategies for orthographic mapping. Students in kindergarten and first grade should first use decodable texts to practice their decoding skills. Teachers can use leveled readers for read alouds during this time to build students’ oral language, comprehension, and vocabulary. But, over-relying on leveled readers at this young age for independent reading encourages the student to guess at words. We don’t want them to use memorization, pictures, or context clues to read. We want them to use all of the letters from left to right to attack each word. This is the focus of decodable books and why they are so crucial in building a foundation for our students’ reading success.
Ready. Set. Read. Decodable books that follow a systematic sequence and include diverse characters.