Should beginner readers use ONLY decodable books?

Susan Godsland has posted a useful list of ten reasons why beginner readers should use only decodable books here (I have copied it in full below).  What do you think?
Her list would certainly make a useful basis for discussion at many primary schools.  We would love to some views from school based practioners – please post your views below.

“10 reasons why beginning readers should only use decodable books:

1. Decodable books are consistent with the synthetic phonics reading method; they go from simple to complex, use only explicitly taught code and illustrations are designed to avoid acting as clues to text. Taught code is used throughout words, rather than first letter emphasis, to ensure that transitivity is well understood. Sounding out is the only strategy required to read the words.

2. Whole-language/Banded books give child a misleading idea of what reading entails i.e. that it is a memorising and (psycholinguistic) guessing game.

3. In order to become expert readers and spellers, children need to know the complete Alphabet Code and the skills of blending and segmenting to automaticity. To ensure this, they need to be taught the code and the skills directly, discretely and systematically. Decodable books give them the necessary direct practice in newly taught code and skills.

4. There is no way of knowing which particular children entering a reception class have poor visual memories or low, natural phonological ability. These children are likely to become struggling ‘dyslexic’ readers if whole-language books are used at first. Children with good visual memories plus a supportive home background may appear to do well, initially, with whole-language books, BUT see 5.

5. Decodable books avoid children developing the bad habit of sight word guessing. This can be difficult to change when they get older and the brain less ‘plastic’. Those with good visual memories will develop this habit quickly and easily through the use of predictable, repetitive text. Eventually their memory for sight words will reach its limit and if they haven’t, in the meantime, been taught or deduced the complete alphabet code for themselves they will struggle to read advanced texts with novel words and no illustrations.

6. Repetitive texts are boring; predictable texts, that a child can only struggle through by misreading and guessing, resulting in lost comprehension, are discouraging. Both types of books can put a child off reading. ‘Attitudes to reading in England are poor compared to those of children in many other countries’ and ‘Children in England read for pleasure less frequently than their peers in many other countries’ (Pirls 2006) These findings are from the time when whole-language books were used as the basis for reading instruction in nearly all schools.

7. The use of decodable books is only necessary for a short period in the foundation stage. When well taught, most children learn the code quickly, begin to self-teach and can then move on to real books rather than being stuck for several years on reading schemes with the restricted word count necessary to ensure adequate memorisation of the high frequency words.

8. Good spelling is aided by the use of decodables -see

9. Ease of decoding from the earliest days by simply sounding out and blending gives children quick success, ensuring long term enthusiasm for reading.

10. Parents easily understand the logic of decodable books and are more able and willing to help their children practise reading at home.”

So what do you think? You can select up to two answers in the poll below (only takes a second) or leave us a comment.

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