RIF January 2023 Newsletter

Written by Cheryl Anthony, MS Ed.

Have you wondered how to best use decodable books – books that are written specifically following a prescribed reading instruction sequence?

Both classroom teachers and reading specialists can best use decodable books by looking at the reading skills that will be practiced in the decodable book they are considering for use by students.  What letter to sound patterns will be soon introduced?  Find books that align with those skills and use those books for reading practice to solidify the new letter to sound knowledge gained by students. Are there students needing review of skills already taught?  Reteach the specific symbol to sound pattern the student is struggling with and assign a matching skill decodable reader for the student.  Aligning reading practice to skills taught help to solidify that pattern in the student’s memory.  Reading research has indicated that some students need 35+ exposures to the same letter patterns to map them into memory.  Students may very well need the continued exposure to letter patterns in varying words to be able to automatically apply the correct sounds when encountering them in text.

Parents can ask teachers to inform them of the weekly sound to symbol pattern or patterns being taught in their child’s reading instruction.  This will enable the parent to look for additional decodable books that align with those patterns.  Parents can provide additional reading practice in the home environment that match the patterns.  Once your child has mastered the reading pattern and no longer needs the book, donate it to the classroom library or the school library for other students’ use.

What about older students who are receiving specialized reading instruction to bring their skills to grade level?  Do decodable books work for them?  Certainly, they do!  Inform the student that they will be practicing their new skills with a decodable book and then you will ask them to read the book to a younger student.  Imagine the feeling of success these students will experience as they read the book to a younger child.  These opportunities may be some of the first successful shared readings that the older student will have experienced!

What can school librarians do to make certain that students in their schools or locales have access to books that line up with classroom teachers’ instruction?  Ask teachers for the scope and sequence of the reading programs being used in the school.  Purchase decodable books that match the scope and sequence.  Organize them in the library, not by grade level necessarily, but by the letter pattern to be practiced in the books.  For example, single consonant letters, short vowels, blends, digraphs and trigraphs, etc.  When books are organized in the patterns of focus in the books, as students reach success reading these patterns at different grade levels, appropriate use of the resources will be much easier.  Every library should have an ample resource of decodable books!

Gone are the days of having students read books in which they must guess at so many words that they do not have good comprehension of what they have read.  Gone are the days of memorizing text in early readers and calling that “reading.”  Our young people will be able to learn what they need to know when they are able to read accurately and fluently.  That day is now!  Provide young readers with books that match what they have been explicitly taught.  Now is the day for our children to be literate!

Tutor Testimonial:

“I used Bob, The Mop, and the Mob book yesterday with one of my new students. Although he already decodes quite proficiently and has reasonable comprehension, his oral reading sounds very choppy (though the words are correct) his speech lacks flow, and I found the book helpful as it has simple flowing sentences. I noticed that it is helping his “fluency” (reading more smoothly). He also enjoyed the activities. The repetition of sounds is also helpful. So, though his decoding itself is already okay, the book is providing other areas of help for him!”

Norma J Hill is a tutor who focuses primarily on developing students’ personal learning styles, and helps discover and fill in their educational gaps, to build strong basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics. She has been a teacher and librarian in public and private schools in British Columbia, Canada, where she has worked with special needs and curriculum development. Norma is also a published writer and a professional editor, and she offers literacy workshops for youth as well as for adults.