8 tips for reading decodable books with beginners

Decoding can be very laborious for the beginner reader. Here are a few tips that can make the experience successful and rewarding.

  1. Encourage the child to blend sounds throughout each word.
  2. Be patient: give the child time to work out a word by sounding it out.
  3. If the child doesn’t know the sound of a grapheme, tell them them what it is but let them blend it into the word themselves.
  4. If the child has omitted sounds or inserted sounds into a word, point out where this has happened so the graphemes and phonemes match. Give the child the opportunity to self-correct.
  5. If you encounter a non-decodable high-frequency word, first sound it out (pointing to the graphemes) and then, if necessary, read it for the child.
  6. Read each sentence for the child after they have decoded it, in order to aid comprehension,
  7. Explain new words.
  8. Discuss the theme of the book, and relate it to the child’s personal experiences.


  1. Dear Tami,

    Many thanks for your tips. I think I will have to look up what graphemes and phonemes are as I am not a teacher, but its nice to know that I am managing to do some of the things on the list.

    My little boy Jack (age 4) is currently reading your dandelion launchers series and he is on book number 20. I know the number because each night he insists I count how many he has read so far.

    Jack is one of those little boys who is not at all patient at things that take a long time, but wildly enthusiastic when he works out how to do something. He has to feel he is really good at something to keep engaged. Since Jack has started reading your dandelion launchesr I have noticed that he is much more excited by learning to read. He is not taking as long retrieving the letter sounds now that he knows all the words on the page are within his scope of learning, and is trying much much harder. The length of each book is exactly right for his attention span and we read one a night, looking at the picture on the cover of the next one as a teaser for the next nights read. He also knows he needs to read me a story before I read him one in return from our other books.

    Last term the books we received from school did not help us (try reading A is for Alligator as a first foray into reading – I think we had a chance at every fourth or fifth word and many of them had some of the harder letter combinations).

    I would recommend these books for private use as well as in schools. My numbers-focussed boy is now doing very well at his reading after a dip in interest and I feel like we have circumvented a potential problem. Jack was rather bored by reading before we got our dandelion launchers.


    Lucy Wardle

    1. Hi Lucy,

      So pleased to hear that our Dandelion Readers are helping Jack get enthused about reading. This is what we aimed to do when we set out publishing our books.

      Sorry about the ‘teacher speak’. Phoneme = sounds in words. Graphemes = the letters that represent sounds in words.
      Graphemes can consist of 1 letter as in ‘c a t’ in which each letter represents a sound;
      or 2 letters like in ‘sh i p’;
      or 3 letters like in ‘n igh t’
      and 4 letters like in ‘b ough t’.

      Hope this is helpful.


  2. Love what Lucy is doing with Jack. I have always done reading in that way … the child has to read to me first and then I read to them (so important to maintain the reading to the child as well as the being read to – right through primary). So many fellow parents complain that they can’t fit reading into their evening schedule but this way it just seems to work.

    Lovely to hear a child getting excited by reading … my son Tom is exactly the same at the moment. He really feels he is good at reading and it is all down to the careful progression in the Launchers. He is now almost ready to go onto vowel digraphs e.g. ay ai etc. I love watching his excitement in reading.

    Another tip I have is that once kids have some of the basics then allow kids to read other books that they have in the home but just read the words that are beyond them for them (you can also do this with the inappropriate reading books you get sent home from school). If done carefully this can give them a real sense of achievement. Because you have been using a structured progression like the dandelion readers then as a parent you have a good sense of what words your individual child can and can’t read (i.e. they have learnt th but not ch) so it is easy to use it as a confidence builder. They don’t seem to mind that they aren’t reading parts of the text. I have even done it with my older son to help him move onto chapter books.

    Confidence is the key word when it comes to reading as far as I can see. The Dandelion books seem to be aimed at doing just that. They are also great for providing the tools for parents to support their kids reading.

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