Few contest the importance of phonics instruction as it is backed by research to be the most effective way to help students learn to read, but many regard phonics to be uniquely reserved for young and beginning readers, when in reality, systematic phonics learning is immensely helpful for students of ANY age and can work wonders for older students who struggles with reading as well as students with dyslexia. In this blog, we will take a look at how decodable books–texts that help develop phonics skills systematically and progressively–can be particularly helpful for struggling readers and how they should be used.
How decodables can be helpful:
It is important to keep in mind that by learning phonics, students acquire the skill to work out the pronunciation of written words that they don’t recognize by using their knowledge of sound and letter relationships. Far from being limited to children, this is a skill applicable to teens and adults alike, as well as foreigners learning English as a second language. When a student of any age is given the phonic keys to decoding the English language, they are then able to access reading.
When a student struggles with poor reading fluency caused by weakness in phonics, decodable books–which by default focuses on a single phonetic pattern per book–can offer an effective and targeted practice to improve their problematic areas. Once their decoding skills have been fine-tuned, they will be better equipped with tools that allow them to read fluently.
Apart from promoting students’ reading fluency, decodables are also hugely beneficial in that they help students to develop confidence in their reading abilities. Since decodables are written with a controlled word list that makes sure the reader is not overwhelmed with too many challenging words, students are able to read independently after learning just a few letters and their sounds. This gives readers a sense of success and helps them feel empowered by their knowledge. Once struggling students start to find success, then they will be more motivated to continue their reading journey.
How to pick the right books for teens older students:
The tricky part about using decodable books with older students is finding books with appropriate topics that are suitable for their age group. Although older struggling students –for example students from Grade 4–may precisely need the extra review of phonics skills from previous semesters to consolidate their knowledge, the Grade 4 students may not respond well to a series designed for K-3 students (“little kids” in the eyes of fourth graders) as the themes may no longer be engaging for their age group. So, it is crucial that we choose books with topics that are engaging and developmentally appropriate for older students.
Here at Phunics, we have designed our decodable books in a way so that there is something for everybody. Whether it’s the beginning levels which follow the same set of characters through different fun adventures, or the later myth and fable series, students of different age and levels can be sure to find something that appeals to them. Starting with level 5 Indian Riddles and all the way to level 7 Latin Myths, the stories bring readers onto different journeys around the world to explore myths and fables from various cultures, ensuring that a broad audience and readers of any age group are equally engaged.