Creating independent beginning readers
by Angela Weeks
Choosing the right books
Decodable (phonic) books
Ideally, the books students are given to read should parallel the literacy program that is being followed in their classroom. Each student’s reader should be chosen carefully by a teacher or parent so that it provides an opportunity for the child to practise the sounds and words they have learnt through reading a book. This is especially important for students who are at risk of having specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia.
In order for students to develop confidence in their ability to read, they should be provided with decodable texts
· that include only the sounds and irregular words they have learnt,
· that they can read by themselves, and
· that they can read within their concentration span
Phonic reading series, such as Dandelion Readers and SPELD-SA Phonic Books follow a structured, systematic introduction to new letter-sounds. They start with short regular words and just a few irregular words. Regular words are words which can be decoded using letter-sounds, such as: c-a-t > cat, s-a-t > sat, t-a-p > tap. Irregular words are words like: was, the, is that students need to learn by heart.
The PDF chart below illustrates how some well-known phonic-based (decodable) readers can be used to support students as they learn the letter-sound associations of the English language.
The forty-two main sounds of the English language
English has 42 main sounds. Sounds written with two letters, such as ee and ch, are called digraphs.
Early literacy programs for junior-primary students do not necessarily teach letter-sounds in the same order.
The sequence of sounds below is taken from Jolly Phonics, a synthetic phonics program used worldwide. For more information, see www.jollylearning.co.uk
Set 1: s, a, t, i, p, n
Set 2: c, k, ck, e, h, r, m, d
Set 3: g, o, u, l, f, b
Set 4: ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or
Set 5: z, w, ng, v, oo
Set 6: y, x, ch, sh, th
Set 7: qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar
Why this order?
The sounds are presented in this order so that from the beginning, students can learn to blend many 2- and 3-letter words. For example, once a student has learnt the sounds: s, a, t, i, p, n – they can read the sentence: Pat sat in a pit.
Why decodable books?
When students’ school- and take home- reading material is linked to the progression of letter-sounds they have been taught, they are more likely to achieve a high level of success and thereby develop confidence in their ability to read independently. This approach will also help to provide the necessary practice required for a student to consolidate their new learning.
Decodable books that start with just a few letter-sounds include SPELD SA Phonic Books (available free online) and Dandelion Launchers. Once a student knows all the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, they are ready for Dandelion Readers and Fitzroy Stories 1-20.
Classification of Phonic Readers by Year Level
The pdf printable chart below uses the letter-sound sequence of the Jolly Phonics program as its basic structure. Decodable reading books from a number of series have been inserted at the point where they will provide practice for previously learned letter-sound associations.