Decodable books have a very specific and limited purpose in the process of learning to read. They provide reading practice as children learn to use the sound/letter correspondences they have been taught, and the strategy of blending sounds throughout the word. As their code knowledge grows, children will be able it to apply this to ‘authentic’ texts. Authentic texts are age-appropriate reading materials from all areas of the curriculum. They will include different genres, fiction, nonfiction poetry etc.
From Share’s Self Teaching Hypothesis (1995), we now know that children teach themselves how to read new words as they expand their reading. They use their code knowledge to work out new words with graphemes they already know, moreover, they teach themselves new sound/letter correspondences. This explains how children can read so many more words than they have been taught to read explicitly.
Of course, not all children learn at the same rate. Some pick up the code really quickly and take off. These children can be offered authentic texts and phonics teaching can continue to improve their spelling. Other children will take longer and will need more consolidation of the code or practice of their blending skills. They will need decodable books for a bit longer.
How can a teacher know when a child is ready to move on to authentic texts? The only way to know is to observe the child’s reading of an age-appropriate authentic text. If the child can work out new words, make few errors and comprehend the text, they are ready to fly. But if he/she resorts to guessing and makes so many errors that they can’t comprehend the text – they will need more practice and support from decodable texts.
So where next after decodable books? Here is a great website for a selection of quality authentic texts. https://www.thereaderteacher.com/
To see decodable books for beginner readers published by Phonic Books visit UK website www.phonicbooks.co.uk and USA website www.phonicbooks.com
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