Part 4 – Conclusion

The conclusion explains reasons for choosing decodable readers, how to match children to appropriate books and provides information about decodable texts used in other synthetic-phonics programmes.

Part 4:


In conclusion:


  • Decodable books are initially good for all children and essential for the children with poor memories and weak blending skills. They are the stepping stones to becoming a good reader.
  • Some decodable books introduce new letter sounds slowly and use plenty of repetition. These are particularly suitable for the slow-to-start group of children who need plenty of blending practice. At the other extreme, there are decodable books that progress rapidly, have more words on the page, use smaller print, have a wider vocabulary, and inevitably are able to provide more interesting stories. They are suitable for the children who learn to read easily and who have a wide vocabulary.
  • It is impossible to provide a good story when only a few letter sounds are used. These books, with stilted language and very restricted vocabulary, are best saved for the struggling children. They are of great value when used at the right time [examples shown]. At this stage, the story is not so important; these children are just so pleased to have a book that they can read. It boosts their confidence enormously. Even so, I am amazed at how well some authors have succeeded in creating a story and bringing humour into these books, when there is such a restriction on the words that they can use.
  • We are extremely fortunate that there is a good choice of decodable readers available. I am sure there will be some that I have not mentioned. The important thing is to look out for them, read the information provided in their phonics handbooks, or in the books themselves, and make sure the letter sounds and tricky words have been taught, before expecting children to try and read them.
  • There are some synthetic phonics programmes that provide decodable texts as an integral part of the teaching, such as The Butterfly Book; Sound Discovery; Step By Step (which has many words for blending practice); Sound Foundations (co-author Tom Burkard designed the notched card demonstrated in Part 5 of the section Identifying Reading and Writing Problems; it helps to develop good left-to-right decoding skills and stops very poor readers guessing words by just glancing at the letters in the word, instead of blending them in the correct order); Sound Steps to Reading (a complete programme for teaching beginning readers at home and at school, based on research, and written by Diane McGuinness, author of Why Our Children Can’t Read and Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of South Florida); Sound Reading System (based on Diane McGuiness’ work); and Phonics International (an online synthetic-phonics programme by Debbie Hepplewhite).


Links with more information on all of these programmes can be found by scrolling down to the bottom of the screen in the section Decodable Readers, Part 4.


And that concludes the teaching on this section.




  • Word Bank - Steps 1-5

    A word bank is useful for writing decodable stories.