What Makes a Book Decodable?

What Makes a Book Decodable?

By Jo-Anne Dooner
15 Nov 2021

I can really read this one!

Phonics works! Decodable books work. Indulge me while I recount a story that has stuck with me for years.

I was walking through the playground of a school where I had just finished a series of demonstration lessons, when a little person approached me. She asked if I was the same lady that taught her class the phonics lesson a few weeks ago. I told her I was. She then informed me that she could now read.

“Wonderful!” I gushed.

She then produced from her backpack one of our single word practice books, began to decode the words and turn the pages. When she finished, she said, “See! I can read this.”

“Yes. I heard!” I replied.

“No, no! I can really read this one.”

I knew exactly what that little novice reader was trying to tell me – that she had cracked the code. She was able to lift the words off the page by knowing each grapheme- phoneme correspondence and then use the skill of blending to read her first words. What a miracle! She had not used the pictures to guess!

That story only got funnier when her teacher informed me that she was so proud of herself, that she promptly ‘borrowed’ the book to take home and read it to her parents.

That story stayed with me all these years because it shows that even little readers know the difference between ‘real’ reading and pretending. Her school had embarked on a journey to upskill every teacher how to teach systematic synthetic phonics. She had been taught that graphemes represent phonemes, how to match these and then blend all through the word.

Of course, phonics is only one of the areas of the big 5 of reading, but an essential one. Decodable books are a way to practice every one of the Fab 5!

Phonemic awareness – The student must blend each of the phonemes to be able to read a word.

Phonics – The student must match a phoneme to a grapheme with automaticity.

Fluency – The student must be able to read known words with speed and accuracy.

Vocabulary – Once the words have been decoded, a student must search his or her vocabulary knowledge to find the meaning. Just because a word is decodable, doesn’t make it simple in meaning. e.g., cog, pen, fog, scamp, stamp, mascot, pom-pom.

Comprehension – The novice reader must then combine all these skills to understand what is being read. This is the goal of reading.


What makes a book a decodable and not predictable?

The word predict has two morphemes pre (before) and dict (to say). How interesting that many early readers are called predictable texts. In other words, the novice reader is expected to say before reading.  In other words – guess! Predictable texts are usually vocabulary controlled and have a predictable syntactic pattern, such as; I like _____. I like ______. I like ____.

The unfortunate thing about these texts is that many of the earliest words introduced in these books are not decodable for the novice reader. A quick scan of level 1, 2 and 3 texts reveal words such as: come, here, oranges, and look. I’ve even seen multisyllabic words such as merry-go-round!

A decodable book on the other hand, introduces only simple decodable words that use GPCs that have been taught. The words are simple, usually VC or CVC. The irregular, high frequency words are also controlled. Each decodable book follows a phonics scope and sequence closely. Novice readers have immediate success and see themselves as readers almost immediately.

Feature Early Predictable Texts Decodable Texts
Follows a phonics scope and sequence. X
Only decodable words are used. X
Has left to right reading.
Contains the return sweep.
Contains examples of varied punctuation.
Contain pictures that help the reader to read individual words. X
Contain illustrations that aid with comprehending the story. X
Have text that improves vocabulary.

At Get Reading Right, we would introduce a novice reader to a varied diet of decodable texts.


Scope and Sequence Video and Downloads

Decodable books should be used as a part of a complete systematic synthetic phonics program. Your school must have a phonics scope and sequence.

You can download two examples here:
(1) Camera words and Phonemes Scope and Sequence
(2) Get Reading Right scope and sequence


What makes a book decodable?


What order should you use each type of  book?

Order of use Text Type of Decodable Text Knowledge and Skill


Practice Book (see video below)


Get Reading Right Titles:
Basic Code (Kindy/Prep/Foundation/Reception)
Advanced Code (Year 1)
Complete the Code (Year 2)

  • Teaching Grapheme Phoneme Correspondences
  • Blending to read CVC words
  • Read single words fluently with speed and accuracy.
  • Segmenting to spell CVC words
Second Camera Word Book (see video below)

Get Reading Right Titles

(Note Camera Word books come in Basic and Advanced code with the practice books):
Basic Code (Kindy/Prep/Foundation/Reception)
Advanced Code (Year 1)

  • Learn to read irregular, high frequency words.
  • Learn to identify the known GPCs in these words and think about the irregular part.


Third Vocabulary Book (see video below)

Get Reading Right Titles:
Basic Code (30 titles, one copy of each title)
Basic Code Full Class Edition (30 titles, with six copies of each title)

  • Blending to read CVC words
  • Read single words fluently with speed and accuracy.
  • Learn the meanings of decodable words in preparation for comprehension.


Fourth Decodable Stories (see video below)

Get Reading Right Titles:
Basic Code (Kindy/Prep/Foundation/Reception)
Advanced Code (Year 1)
Complete the Code (Year 2)

  • Read sentences fluently with speed and accuracy.
  • Understand the meaning of the text.
  • Do a retelling to remember key information from the story.
  • Answer comprehension questions.


Fifth Picture Books Some decodable words, some irregular high frequency words Put reading to the test – read ‘real’ books for pleasure and to learn about the world.

The argument against decodable books usually follows a predictable path – that they are not examples of quality literature. Of course they’re not! That’s not their purpose. As with every educational resource, we must use them as they were meant to be used.

Decodable books are designed to be used to teach novices TO read. Just because you are using decodable books to teach students TO read, doesn’t preclude you from reading quality literature to your students every day.

Read picture books and non-fiction to your class. Discuss their favourite stories and authors. Spend time building students’ background knowledge, so that when they can finally unlock the miracle of the English code, they are ready to comprehend what they read!


How do you know which decodables to buy?

The most important thing is to have a scope and sequence and stick to it!

Once you have decided on that, you can supplement your resources with lots of other books. But be careful, you must only give students decodable books that contain grapheme phoneme correspondences they have been taught.

If you have purchased the Get Reading Right books, and are wondering where other decodables fit in, download our chart here to help map decodables to the Get Reading Right sequence.

Watch the video below explaining the chart:

Five things teachers need to know about fluency

By Kelly Malone
15 Oct 2021

I wanted to share one of the biggest success stories I witnessed in my role as an Instructional Leader. I had been working closely with a FABULOUS year 2 teacher, who was returning to class after a number of years in a learning and support role. Things had changed at the school since she was last on class. The school was investing much time and resources into the professional learning around the science of reading.

To cut a long story short, this teacher wanted to work on building fluency with her class. We had been learning about the important role it plays in moving kids from phonics, and how it supports comprehension.

Enter the Get Reading Right Fluency Toolkit!

Together we decided to dedicate just 5 minutes a day to fluency. And away we went… Modelling reading of single words, phrases, and sentences. Choral reading. Cold calling. Little class competitions. Timed reading, paired reading. Echo reading. In a very short period of time, this teacher had established a wonderful routine of fluency practice with her students.

Over the next few months, I observed this group of students (full of reluctant readers) not only build their fluency. But their confidence. They read aloud together during morning routine with beautiful pace, and prosody. During guided reading, they read poetry and narratives utilising character voices. They paid closer attention to punctuation. They had buddy systems, where more confident readers supported struggling readers. They provided each other with feedback and praise. To see the change in these students’ reading confidence, and their teacher’s confidence, is something I’m incredibly proud of and will always remember. All it took was knowing the research and being willing to put it into practice!

When it comes to teaching reading, let’s not ignore the crucial role fluency plays. Here is my Fast Fluency Five – 5 things teachers need to know about fluency.

1. Fluency is…

Fluency is the ability to read words effortlessly, with automaticity. Fluency is reading accurately, quickly, and with appropriate phrasing and intonation. Tim Rasinski states that fluency is accuracy in word recognition (decoding), automaticity in word recognition, and interpretation and meaningful reading. Research has also shown a two-way relationship between reading fluency and comprehension: when children read more fluently, they understand what they read better, and when children understand what they are reading they read more fluently. However, fluency has stronger effect on comprehension than vice versa (Klauda & Guthrie, 2008Pikulski & Chard, 2005).

2. Fluency is not…

Fluency is not simply reading quickly. A very common misconception is that reading fluency is the ability to read aloud at pace, achieving a certain number of words correct per minute. What we know, is that fluency is much more than that. Fluency requires not only appropriate pace, but accuracy and prosody. If we emphasise speed at the expense of prosodic and meaningful reading, we will end up with fast readers who understood little of what they have read. (Rasinski 2004)

Read really fast. Read like a river, not like a robot, or like a speedboat!

3. Fluency is important…

Fluency is important to reading instruction and reading development. This is because when we read, we essentially have to do two things. First of all, we have to read the words. Decode. We need to develop this to automaticity. With accuracy. With appropriate prosody. This frees up space in working memory to focus on the second thing. Making connections between vocabulary and our schema to comprehend the text.  When we cross the ‘fluency bridge’ from decoding and add prosody, we get meaning. Reading fluency is an important part of reading proficiency and reading a text fluently is critical to comprehending it. (Hudson et al 2012) Fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding the words, therefore they can focus their attention on what the text means.

4. Fluency instruction should be…

Fluency instruction should be direct and explicit. It requires intentional practise. Teachers should plan to teach fluency as part of an effective phonics and/or reading program. Modelled, guided and independent practice, and providing feedback at all stages, is essential. Dedicating small chunks of your day to fluency instruction is a simple, yet effective change to make! Systematic, direct and explicit instruction of reading fluency is considered imperative, since many students and mostly those with reading difficulties face problems in reading speed and prosody, despite their adequate decoding skills. (Padeliadu & Giazitzidou 2018)

5. Fluency in practice…

Fluency in practice doesn’t have to be daunting, or time consuming. Fluency in the classroom can be incredibly fun, engaging and rewarding! Why not try three of my favourite approaches?

  • Repeated reading

Repeated reading is an evidence based approach to fluency instruction. You can implement repeated reading in small groups, or one-to-one. Select a text the child can read with minimal errors, model reading the text, listen to the student read, provide corrective feedback, have the student read the text up to four times.

For more information check this out: https://fivefromfive.com.au/repeated-reading/

  • Choral reading

Choral reading works well whole class or in small groups. It is reading aloud, in unison. Choral reading chunks of a text during guided reading is by far more beneficial than round-robin reading. Model reading a text, students choral read.  Choral reading can be applied throughout all KLAs.

Watch it here:

  • Echo reading

Echo reading provide a strong scaffold for reading fluency. Read a section of a text modelling fluency. Then read it sentence at a time. The students then echo your reading after each sentence. Simple. Effective. Easily added to your guided reading sessions, or whole class reading.

Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gRXca5G-Ow

If you want to make a change to your reading instruction, make small changes to the way you teach fluency. Hopefully you see the same effects that I did. Sometimes the smallest changes can have the biggest impact.

Kelly Malone



Want to know more about Fluency instruction?

Check out Get Reading Right’s brand new Fluency Toolkit: http://www.getreadingright.com.au/shop/new-products/pre-order-fluency-toolkit-kindy/

The Essentials of Developing Reading Fluency https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OM-mi_4usvE

Five from Five – Fluency https://fivefromfive.com.au/fluency-4/


Decodable Texts from various publishers: What to use, when?

By Jo-Anne Dooner
15 October 2021

If you are in a NSW school, you may have recently received decodable stories from other publishers. We have always encouraged the use of decodable texts from many publishers, however we are now getting a number of questions as to how to use these texts, when using the Get Reading Right sequence?

We’ve created a simple PDF for you to help understand when you can introduce what texts, when using the Get Reading Right sequence.

Download our Decodables – What to Use When PDF map.