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The Magic of Decodable Texts


An image of child's hand and a wand with magic swirling around and coming out of it.

Decodable Texts are a Necessary Tool 

What’s so magical about decodable texts?

Supporting systematic phonics instruction with decodable texts provides the opportunity for children to truly read with independence.  After students are taught a specific phonics concept, they must then apply this learning to connected text.  Students need to know that the code they learn during phonics lessons can and should be applied directly to their reading.  

To meet with reading success, repeated opportunities to practice code are non-negotiable.  Systematic, sequential, and cumulative practice with the alphabetic system helps create the neural pathways in the brain necessary for reading.  Decodable texts provide this practice and help reinforce the understanding that code is not random.

Graphic of person word solving using phonics versus MSV to read the word dog. MSV gives many wrong options such as bog and puppy.

The use of decodable texts helps reduce the likelihood of guessing and checking which is a detrimental reading strategy.  

Won’t the rest of the class be bored with phonics instruction?

Systematic, explicit, and cumulative phonics instruction is crucial for beginning readers.  By beginning readers, we are referring to primary grade students as well as struggling readers.  Familiarizing students with the six basic syllable types of the English language and providing multiple opportunities to recognize and apply these syllable types to their reading, leads to reading proficiency.

What do the statistics say about student reading proficiency?

The statistics are grim for those students who are not skilled readers by the end of 3rd grade.  Studies have shown that these students are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers who are proficient readers.  The statistics get worse when poverty and ethnicity are considered.

According to the 2022 report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 66% of U.S. 4th graders are failing to meet the proficiency level

Approximately 20% of the population is prone to a language-based learning disability.  While structured literacy is vital for all readers, it is even more critical for struggling readers.

Implementing decodable text alongside explicit phonics instruction is a critical step in altering this downward trend.

Reading is more than just sounding out words.  What about comprehension?

Image of child reading a book.

Of course, it is necessary to teach comprehension skills!  We cannot stress this enough, so we’re going to repeat that.  Of course, it is necessary to teach comprehension skills!   The idea that the use of decodable texts and/or the teaching of phonics precludes comprehension is a false dichotomy and is the crux of the ‘reading wars’.

Systematic phonics instruction and decodable texts are tools to help readers access print independently.  Providing students with decodable texts to practice their independent reading doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean they will not also be exposed to rich, authentic texts.

Reading aloud and discussing books with children are powerful ways to support reading comprehension.  In addition, reading aloud provides exposure to vocabulary and book language (sentence structures) that they may be unable to currently access.

Using audiobooks allows students of varying reading abilities to enjoy the same text while building crucial comprehension skills.

How can parents provide reading support to their children at home?

As classroom teachers, we’ve all had parents who are willing and able to help their children become successful readers. There’s more to it than suggesting that parents ‘read at home’ to and with their children. It’s embarrassing to admit, but that was my go-to suggestion before I learned about the Science of Reading.  We need to provide parents with practical tools and tips (decodable books that mirror the phonics patterns taught in class).  

When armed with these books, parents can help the magic happen by listening to their children read decodable texts.  If their child is stuck on a word with a familiar phonics pattern, parents can then prompt their child to tap and blend.  

Read our post, ‘How Can I Help My K-2 Struggling Reader at Home?’ for more ways that parents can support their children.

Won’t decodable books ‘kill’ the joy of reading?

It’s quite the opposite. Do you know what’s joyful for students? Knowing HOW to read the books that are put in front of them. The magic happens when children learn to break the code.  It happens when the light bulb clicks on and the reader learns that /b/…/u/…/g/ says bug.  As readers make the connection from individual letter sounds to actual words their eyes light up and a grin spreads across their face.  The magic happens when, with an exclamation of delight, the reader says, “This is sooooo easy,” and they request to read the book again and again.

Magic happens when the enchanting world of reading is made accessible through decodable text and children can read independently.

Where can I find resources to help create this magic?

CVC Decodable Readers by Informed Literacy include both fiction and nonfiction texts.
Decodable Readers Digraph Bundle cover
Decodable Readers Closed Syllable Bundle
Product image of Decodable Readers with v-e syllable types. These books provide learners with practice reading connected text that contain the final silent e syllable.
All of our decodable books are aligned with the science of reading.

We have lots more Science of Reading-aligned resources in our online store!

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