Why we wrote the SPELD SA Phonic Books

(adapted from 2009 Newsletter)

We can teach reading to anyone at any age. The challenge is often to provide the learner with suitable texts that they can read independently from the start.

To address this need, SPELD(SA) coopted friends, family and students to create short, illustrated texts with three different audiences in mind: children, young adults and people with English as a second language. We have called them SPELD (SA) Phonic Books.

Regardless of age or circumstance, the best way to teach someone to read is to start by systematically and explicitly teaching the relationship between letters and their sounds. Many schools now follow an intensive, synthetic phonics program, such as Jolly Phonics, that teaches children the 42 main sounds of the English language at a rate of 5 letter sounds a week. SPELD(SA) Phonic Books use the sequence of sounds used in the Jolly Phonics early literacy program.

One of the most important principles of Synthetic Phonics is that a person should never be asked to read something that is too hard for them. While you may not be able to cover the letter-sounds at a rate of 5/week, it is important to provide books that include only the sounds that have been learnt. To facilitate this, Set 1 of the SPELD(SA) Phonic Books includes just 6 letters (‘s’, ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘i’, ‘p’ and ‘n’), and one or two special words such as, ‘the’ and ‘a’.

Each set of the SPELD (SA) Phonic Books is identified by the highest group of letter-sounds included. Thus, books in Set 2 include the letter-sounds in Groups 1 and 2, and Set 6 books may include letter-sounds from Groups 1-6.

Words in Sets 1-7 texts include one way of spelling the 42 main sounds of English

Group 1: s, a, t, i, p, n

Group 2: ck, c, k, e, h, r, m, d

Group 3: g, o, u, l, f, b

Group 4: ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or

Group 5: z, w, ng, v, oo (book), oo (food)

Group 6: y, x, ch, sh, th (that), th (thing)

Group 7: qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar

Set 8, 9 and 10 texts include alternative spellings for the vowel sounds and consonants

Set 8: y/ee/, long a, a-e, long e, e-e, long i, i-e, long o, o-e, long u, u-e

Set 9: ay, ey/ai/, oy/oi/, y (by) , y (gym), ea(dream), igh/ie/, ie (chief)

Set 10: oe, ow/oa/, ow/ou/, ir, ur/er/, ew (few), au, aw, al/or/

Words in Sets 11-15 texts include less common alternative spellings for vowel sounds and consonants; silent letters and word endings

Set 11: ph, soft c(mice),soft g(cage),silent b(lamb), silent w(write), silent k(know), air(fair), are(care), ear(pear)

Set 12: wh, ea/e/ wa(was),wor(work), war(ward), ou(country)

Set 13: ch (chemist), silent h (ghost), silent c (scissors), silent n (autumn), ti, ci/sh/ (station), (special), si/sh/ (pension)/zh/(television), ei, eigh, aigh/ai/

Set 14: o/u/, ture (picture), oor (door), ore (more), oar (roar), tch (match), dge (bridge)

Set 15: s (has), se (revise), ze (size), ear (fear), eer (beer), ere (here), gn (gnome), gh (cough)

Words in Sets 16-20 include alternative spellings for word endings

Set 16: -le, -il, -al, -el, -ent, -ence, -ency, -ant, -ance, -ancy, -ure

Set 17: -our, -or, -ous, -cious, -tious

Set 18: -able, -ably, -ible, -ibly, -ssion, -cian

Set 19: -gue/que, -ery, -ary, -ory, ch, che/sh/, -ea/ai/

Set 20: ui /i/, u/e/, au/ar/, uy, ye/ie/, ough /ou/

In each book, there are instructions for blending the sounds in the words in the text, and games to provide practice in reading the special words automatically. If students try to read without the necessary preparation, they may find reading difficult and become discouraged and/or try to guess the words from the pictures or the first one or two letters.

The goal of reading is to engage with text, be it to find out information, to access different realities or immerse yourself in someone else’s world. While the text in the SPELD(SA) Phonic Books is limited, each book includes questions to encourage readers of different ages and backgrounds, to relate the content to their own knowledge and experience. Some questions invite you to explore word meanings and expand general knowledge. Many questions draw on the reader’s emotional reaction to the situations described. The aim of the questions is not to elicit a ‘right’ answer, even if there is one, but to open up avenues for sharing knowledge, ideas and experiences through conversation between teacher and learner. Some people choose to use their own questions as the text is read, and this is fine.

Click here to view the books

SPELD SA is generously supported by

thyne reid foundation Education Logo CMYK H Large australian executor trustees

SPELD SA would like to acknowledge the support of the Douglas Whiting Trust in the development of this website.

More benefactors and supporters

We are a proud member of AUSPELD


AUSPELD is a member of the IDA Global Partners Program