Why are fully decodable books so important?

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Having been a teacher for 20 years I have seen many children struggling with their early reading over the years- from not being able to blend, to heavily relying on the picture clues and not understanding the common exception words that can’t be sounded out phonetically…… These are just some of the difficulties faced by some children on their reading journey and often what ‘puts them off’ reading from an early age.

The good news is that children are now able to succeed in their reading, since the introduction of decodable books and DfE Validation of SSP schemes, the guidance states: –

The texts and books children are asked to read independently should be fully decodable for them at every stage of the programme. This means they must be composed almost entirely of words made up of grapheme-phoneme correspondences that a child has learned up to that point.”

So, in essence decodable books are simple books that are written for the early reader and contains the specific grapheme–phoneme correspondences the child has learnt. This provides readers with the opportunity to use their developing segmenting and blending skills to read words in order to develop automaticity, or the ability to recognise words quickly and effortlessly, and experience independent reading success.

Decodable books encourage children to sound out words using decoding strategies rather than guessing from pictures or predicting from other cues. They can be introduced once beginning readers have learned some simple grapheme–phoneme correspondences and can blend from left to right.

Mesmer (2005) found that children were more likely to apply their phonics knowledge, read more accurately, and needed less assistance when reading decodable books.

Why should decodable books be an integral part of any phonics programme?

  • They make sense of phonics
  • They support the phonics lesson
  • They offer practice of reading skills
  • They create success, a sense of achievement and motivation
  • They develop trust and prove that phonics works
  • They develop good, reliable decoding habits

Of course, decodable texts are not the only texts to be included in the early reader’s diet. Is it also important for teachers and parents to read high quality children’s literature that contains more complex vocabulary and sentence structures with the child every day. This can be done through shared reading, class story books, story time and bedtime stories. This gives children the opportunity to hear good reading models, see adults as readers as well as developing the vocabulary and syntax that will support their reading development and develop that true ‘love of reading’ and to become life long learners.

I recently had feedback from a Reception class parent who was amazed at the progress their child had made within 6 weeks of beginning school, they were already able to blend and read simple sentences through the use of decodable books. This was compared to an older sibling that hadn’t used decodable books at the start of his reading journey and took a lot longer to be able to do the same. This is just one example of how decodable books really do make a difference.

The Monster Phonics reading scheme includes 130 decodable books for Reception and KS1 and a further 30 books for Pre-Schools. Coming very soon! 50 non-fiction books will be added to our books for schools.

Find out more about MP guidance on decodable books.