Navigating Reading Materials: Decodable Readers, Controlled Text, and Leveled Readers

by | Dec 7, 2023


Today’s blog is focused on understanding different types of reading materials – Decodable Readers, Controlled Text, and Leveled Readers – and their roles in teaching reading.


Understanding Reading Materials


Decodable Readers


  • What They Are: Books or texts where most words can be sounded out using learned phonics rules.
  • Identifying Authentic Decodable Texts: Ensure they align with the phonics skills that have been explicitly taught.


Controlled Text


  • What They Are: Similar to decodable readers, but may include a higher percentage of sight words or slightly more complex vocabulary.
  • Identifying Authentic Controlled Texts: Check that the majority of words are decodable, with only a few sight words or vocabulary words beyond the current phonics level.


Leveled Readers


  • What They Are: Books categorized by reading level, focusing more on comprehension and fluency than phonics skills.
  • Downside: They often encourage guessing based on pictures or context instead of decoding.


The Importance of Authentic Decodable Readers in First Grade


Using authentic decodable readers is crucial for first graders as:

  • They reinforce phonics skills, ensuring that reading is a decodeable, not guessable, process.
  • They build confidence as students can successfully read the majority of the text.


The Issue with Leveled Readers


Leveled readers can inadvertently promote guessing or cueing strategies rather than decoding. This might hinder the development of strong phonics skills, crucial for early reading development.


Selecting and Using Decodable Readers


  • Selection: Choose texts that align with the phonics skills your students have learned.
  • Usage: Incorporate decodable readers during guided reading sessions and independent reading time.


UFLI Decodable Readers


UFLI (University of Florida Literacy Institute) Decodable Readers are designed based on the science of reading. They are structured to align with systematic phonics instruction, making them an effective tool in teaching reading.


Implementing Decodable Readers


  • During Literacy Blocks: Use decodable readers in both whole group and small group settings.
  • Strategies: Include repeated reading for fluency, guided reading for comprehension, and phonics activities related to the text.
  • Assessment: Observe students’ ability to decode words in the text, and check for understanding of the content.
  • Frequency: Ideally, students should engage with decodable texts daily to reinforce their decoding skills.


In conclusion, choosing the right type of reading material is crucial in first grade. Authentic decodable readers support the development of strong decoding skills, laying the foundation for successful reading. By carefully selecting materials and using them strategically, teachers can significantly enhance their students’ reading abilities.



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