Part 1 – Decodable readers – what are they?

An explanation of decodable readers is provided in this video The Jolly Readers are used as an example for this. Decodable Readers are books designed to practice the phonic knowledge the children have been taught.

Part 1: Decodable readers – What are they?


In the section Understanding the English Alphabetic Code, information is provided about the complicated nature of the code. The fact that there are so many ways of representing the sounds in English puts a strain on children’s memories. This is why it is important to start with the common representations and gradually introduce the more complicated ones.


Decodable readers


Decodable readers are books designed for children learning to read. These books have controlled vocabulary, with words that only use certain letter sounds and a few tricky words that should have been taught. This enables the children to practise the letter sounds and the blending of new words as they read at home and at school. As more letter sounds are introduced, the next set of readers will have words that use the new letter sounds, as well as the previously taught letter sounds. Once a word has been blended a few times it becomes known. Then blending is only needed for new words that have not been read before.


Phonic progression


In Steps 3, 4 and 5 the progression used in the Jolly Phonics Readers is clearly demonstrated. You can see here [demonstration], how it progressively builds up, using new letter sounds and tricky word knowledge for each of the new levels: Red Level (the 42 sounds, some tricky words and the character names, Inky, Snake and Bee); Yellow Level (the 42 sounds, ‹y› as /ee/, some more tricky words and the character name, Phonic); Green Level (the 42 sounds, ‹y› as /ee/, split digraphs and some more tricky words); Blue Level (the 42 sounds, ‹y› as /ee/, all the main alternative vowel spellings, and some more tricky words). This information is clearly presented at the front, so you know exactly what is in each book.


At the same time, the complexity of the vocabulary increases, as well as the number of words on the page, which naturally enables more interesting stories to be written. One advantage of this style of decodable readers is that it is clear what needs to be taught per level, with all 18 books in that level following those criteria. It means that at each level the books can be read in any order, which makes it easier for teachers sorting out books for the children to take home and read to their parents or guardians. In some schemes the criteria varies from book to book, which makes it more difficult to organise. There are different types of decodable readers and it is important to select what is appropriate for the different needs of the children.



  • Word Bank - Steps 1-5

    A word bank is useful for writing decodable stories.