How to…read a non-fiction decodable book

In our ‘how to…’ series we are going to delve into all things phonics instruction and give you our expert advice on developing confident readers.


Non-fiction decodable books are wonderful reading resources. They combine two essential parts of reading: word recognition (decoding) and world knowledge (language comprehension and subject vocabulary).

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Educators now recognise that world knowledge has an important part to play in reading comprehension. Pupils who lack world knowledge can’t make sense of a text that presumes they have general knowledge. For example, a sentence that describes a character as a “fossil” will have little meaning to a pupil who has not learnt about what fossils are and how they are created.

The Dandelion World series features “Knowledge Builder” pages that include pictures and text about the subject of the book. The series also includes a glossary so that pupils can learn new words that are beyond their decoding skills. By including knowledge-building pages, the pupils can develop their world knowledge orally without being limited only to a text they can read. As learning about a subject supports reading comprehension, it is advisable to immerse the pupils in the knowledge first and only then read the decodable book.

Before reading the decodable text, teachers can start by asking the pupils what they know about the topic. This way new learning is built on what the pupils already understand and know. Then teachers can read the “Knowledge Builder” pages to the pupils and teach the vocabulary. Next, they can then ask questions to ensure that the pupils have understood the subject and vocabulary. They then read the decodable books and facilitate a discussion. Finally, teachers can link the text the pupils have decoded to the subject knowledge already learnt.

The Jazz Gig

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