Decodable Reading Books

 

Why are good decodable reading books so important for early readers?

Decodable reading books are books used in the early stages of teaching children to read with phonics. They contain only (or mainly) text that can be ‘decoded’ (or sounded out) based on the letter-sounds the child has already been taught. This encourages children to sound out words and blend sounds to read words, rather than guessing words from pictures or context.

This recent thread on Mumsnet is a good example of how frustrating it can be for children who are given the wrong sort of reading books when they are in the early stages of learning to read with phonics.

If a school is teaching a certain phonics programme such as Jolly Phonics, Read Write Inc., or Letters and Sounds, then in an ideal world the children would all be given decodable reading books that follow the same sequence as that particular scheme. Unfortunately, many schools still have large stocks of the Oxford Reading Tree ‘Biff and Chip’ style books. These use predictable, repetitive text with illustrations that are deliberately designed to provide clues to the text content. They also use many ‘sight words’ that cannot be decoded so the child who has been learning phonics gets very frustrated when presented with lots of words that contradict what they have been taught.

Children using these books soon develop a bad habit of guessing what the words might be rather than reading them. This may not be a problem whilst their reading books contain lots of pictures but eventually their memory for sight words will reach overload and if they haven’t learnt how to read the alphabetic code properly they will struggle to read more complex texts as they move on in school.

If your child brings home books that they are unable to read based on the phonic sounds they already know, the best advice is to share the book with them and help with any words they are unable to work out, to avoid them struggling and guessing words.

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Interactive websites for children

There are many websites providing free interactive games and activities for children – some better than others! Here are some that I think are worth a visit:

Poisson Rouge
A treasure chest of activities for young children to explore – they can develop their ICT skills without the need to read any text or follow any instructions.
(For parents who want to understand what the site has to offer before allowing their child to roam it freely, there is a user guide – click on the Union Jack symbol at the bottom of the home page, then ‘User Guide’)

NGfL Cymru
This site has a useful page for seeing how to write letters correctly and hear the sounds. The first page has the letter names – click on the arrow on the bottom right of the page to go to the letter formation page.

Family Learning
A selection of links to free phonics games

Starfall
This is a popular site with many schools and parents (the American accent is not to everyone’s taste though).

BBC Words and Pictures
Games and activities that focus on a different areas of phonics work.

School websites
A number of schools have created their own websites – these are the best I have come across so far. I have linked to the Literacy pages but they also have lots of activities covering other areas of learning:

Woodlands Junior School,Kent

Northwood Primary School, Kent

If you come across another great website, or one of these links is broken, please let us know.

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Blending Sounds

Blending is one of the skills children need to develop when learning to read with phonics. They need to be able to look at the letters in a word, say the sounds (all through the word) and hear the word.

Blending needs practice – some children grasp the skill straight away and others can take much longer. The two main reasons why children struggle to hear the word when they have said the sounds are that they don’t know the letter sounds well enough (so they pause to think between letters) or the letter sounds are not being pronounced correctly.

If you are not sure how to pronounce the letter sounds correctly, take a look at our Hear the Sounds page on the website.

Children can start blending sounds into words as soon as they know a small group of letters well. The words chosen to start with will therefore depend on the letter-sounds already known. Jolly Phonics starts with the group of letters ‘s’, ‘a’, ‘t’, ‘p’, ‘i’, ‘n’ because they make more simple 3-letter words than any other group of six letters. Read Write Inc. starts with the group ‘m’, ‘a’, ‘s’, ‘d’, ‘t’.

If your child knows the letter-sounds well but is finding it difficult to blend them to read words, there are a number of tactics you can try to help them:

*Using pictures or objects, ask your child to find the ‘c-a-t’ or ‘p-i-g’ for example – if they can put the spoken sounds together, they will eventually learn to do the same with written sounds.

*Try using Magnetic letters or letters on cards to make simple words.

*Start with 2-sound words like ‘is’, ‘in’, ‘it’ to gain confidence, then move on to simple 3-sound words (CVC words or consonant-vowel-consonant) such as ‘sit’, ‘pin’.

*If your child is adding ‘uh’ onto the consonant sounds, try getting them to whisper the sound as this tends to keep it ‘pure’ this will make it easier to hear the target word.

*Get your child to slide sounds together more quickly until they are literally saying the word.

* Use very simple decodable sentences or books – it may be that your child doesn’t understand why they are sounding out and blending – Decodable Reading Books

* Use finger tracking under the letters to read the word.

*Having a picture on the back of the word card is good so that the child can turn it over and see if they have read the word correctly.

*Make sure your child is reading the letter-sounds – not saying them and looking away trying to remember them. Also, make sure they are reading all through the word – not reading the first sound then guessing the rest.

A useful video showing how to blend sounds into words can be found on a great website Mr Thorne Does Phonics

If you own an iPhone or iPod, then you might want to look at this great app called abc PocketPhonics
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6UBp6rKJ_g&feature=player_embedded

This makes the most of 21st century technology to provide an engaging and interactive way to help your child learn their letter sounds and how to blend them into words.

The thing to remember is that learning to blend will click eventually – if you have any other good suggestions for how you have helped your child learn to blend, do let us know!

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How Important is Phonemic Awareness?

What is phonemic awareness and how important is it when learning to read?

Phonemic awareness is the basis for learning phonics – it is the ability to identify individual sounds within words so that later on, the printed letters can be matched up with their proper sounds.

So phonemic awareness is not about asking children to name letters or know which letters represent which sounds – it is being aware of the sounds in spoken language.

There is some debate as to how important it is for children to have good phonemic awareness before being introduced to letters. General consensus is that whilst it is not a pre-requisite to learning to read, it is recognised that children who can hear phonemes in words and sound them out accurately are generally well prepared to make a good start in reading and writing.

Young children need to be given every opportunity for speaking and listening and lots of games to help develop phonemic awareness both before and whilst learning letter/sounds. This is an area where parents/carers can play such a vital role in their child’s development and give them the best preparation before formal phonics teaching begins in school.

• Tell stories as well as reading from books – this will encourage your child to listen.
• Play I-Spy
• Play lots of oral blending games –“It’s time for b-e-d”, “Could you go and fetch your c-oa-t”
• Sing lots of Nursery Rhymes
• Play rhyming word games such as rhyming bingo
• Play listening games

We have recently added some great new resources on for developing speaking and listening – visit the website to find out.

You might also like to know that is not only children that can have difficulty with oral blending, as this very funny YouTube video shows.

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