What is Decodable Text?

Jun 21 / KoolMinds Team
Decodable text is a type of text that is often used in beginning reading instruction. Decodable texts are carefully sequenced to progressively incorporate words that are consistent with the letter–sound relationships that have been taught to the new reader. Decodable text is controlled for different types of phonetic sounds and follows a general scope and sequence.

The purpose of the decodable text is to allow students to develop their ability to decode the words based on the sound principles taught through applicable practice. Decodable text shows students that sounds can be put together to form words. For example, children could decode a phrase such as “The cat sat on the mat” if they had been taught the letter-sound associations for each letter—that 'c' stands for the sound /c/, 'a' for the sound /a/, etc.  

Why is Decodable Text Important for Beginning Readers?

The type of text that early readers are exposed to needs to be easy enough for them to read. Every decodable text will have a phonetic pattern that is repeated and able to be identified by your students. Decodable text is crucial in the path to building fluency. The use of decodable text forces readers to practice and use their decoding strategies instead of guessing and relying on pictures.  Decodable text allows students to read practically every word in the text.  

Students need to feel successful when reading a text. They will become more confident as they are given hands-on opportunities to practice. Decodable text sets the students up for success. They will be motivated and want to continue practicing because they feel proud of themselves.  

What Makes a Good Decodable Text?

A good decodable text is comprehensible, instructive and engaging. Students should be able to understand the words they are reading. It is important that the text makes sense and that the words are derived from the students’ vocabulary. It is important that the words are decodable based on the sound spellings that have been previously taught and that there is a strong connection between instruction and text. The text must be engaging enough that students will want to read it again and again. It needs to be something they will want to revisit so that they can develop fluency and increase their reading rate.

Decodable Text vs. Leveled Text

There are two main categories of books that are appropriate for beginning readers: decodable books and leveled readers. The science of reading has found that in order for comprehension to improve, a student’s ability to decode must increase. Using decodable texts is a great way to improve a student’s decoding skills. Decodable and leveled texts serve different purposes and when properly used they are a powerful combination to help build students’ reading skills. Here are a few of the main differences between decodable books and leveled readers:

  • Decodable books contain words using the phonetic code that the child has learned to that point while leveled readers contains repeated and predictable text.

  • Decodable books include very few non-phonetic high-frequency words while leveled readers include many high-frequency words. If they do, those are explicitly taught previously.

  • In decodable books the illustrations are supportive of the text while in leveled books the illustrations reveal the story and words in the book.

  • In decodable books the words used are in line with the child’s phonics level while in leveled readers many words don’t match the child’s phonics skills.

  • Decodable books require a child to decode each word while leveled readers require a child to guess unknown words based on a predictable pattern, picture clues, or context.

Articles/Resources on Decodable Text

Videos about Decodable Text

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[i] Wikipedia contributors. (2022, May 31). Decodable text. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:20, June 15, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Decodable_text&oldid=1090869710

[ii] Blevins, W. (2021, December 22). What Makes a Good Decodable Text? We Are Teachers. Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://www.weareteachers.com/decodable-texts/
[iii] E. (2021, February 7). The Top 5 Reasons You Should Use Decodable Text With Your Students. The Literacy Nest. Retrieved June 16, 2022, from https://www.theliteracynest.com/2020/11/the-top-5-reasons-you-should-use-decodable-text-with-your-students.html?epik=dj0yJnU9aGU0d3dtYzM4MVVhVW5xWlNaMXZTWEJWeDY3aXdibnYmcD0wJm49LVR1b0FxaEVkRHNaa1pjRzZ2V21SZyZ0PUFBQUFBR0txcWxR
[iv] C. (2022, April 19). Decodable Texts vs. Leveled Readers. Mrs. Winter’s Bliss. Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://mrswintersbliss.com/decodable-texts-vs-leveled-readers/

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