Maureen Pollard from Little Learners Love Literacy has just sent me two sets of her shiny new Stage Plus 4 and Stage 6 decodable readers. There are a few perks to this blogging caper after all.
Actually I checked through the drafts of these books for Maureen wearing my fernickety phoneme-grapheme correspondences hat a few weeks ago, so made a very minor, voluntary contribution to their production.
Great books for young beginners
I've been using these books with children in the first two years of school for a little over a year, and highly recommend them as exactly the kind of first books Aussie kids should be attempting to read independently.
They introduce just a few sounds and letters at a time, then gradually add more, allowing children to consolidate patterns without being overwhelmed by too many of them, or too much complexity (as often happens when high-frequency words and "real books" are the literacy starting point).
They have cute stories, attractive illustrations and helpful instructions for parents about how to use the book to help their children learn to read.
Here's the first set, each with a page open, showing the sort of text and pictures they include:
As you can see, the pictures are nice, the stories are about kids' kind of stuff (pets, the playground, going to Luna Park, going canoeing), and there is a manageable amount of simple text on each page for absolute beginners.
If you think there isn't enough text, imagine the letters converted into Wingdings and think about how well you'd read them. The first five books have 8 sound-letter correspondences (m, s, f, a, p, t, c, i) plus three words which don't adhere to these (I, my, the), and I wager that if I taught you each sound-Wingding correspondence, it would still take you quite a while to be able to read the books fluently.
To absolute beginners, letters look like Wingdings. They need to be taught which letters represent which sounds, but they also need lots of opportunities to practice. Decodable books let them do this without tripping over a lot of other, harder spellings.
Feedback from children and teachers
Last year, we bought three sets of the Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4 Little Learners Love Literacy books at the primary school where I work two days per week. Two sets were meant to be for the library and one set was for my therapy groups.
Pretty soon I had to put my set in the library, and go back to bringing my personal copies to school for my groups, because the library ones were constantly out on loan and the early years teachers were complaining there weren't enough copies.
The librarian recently told me she's planning to buy a lot more of them, off her own bat and from her own budget, with no nagging from me required, because they have been very popular with the children.
Some of the early years teachers are saying we need a set in every early years classroom, as well as some in the library for children to borrow for home reading. I couldn't agree more.
The new books
The ten new Little Learners Love Literacy books have been published at a good time for us, because I have a bunch of students who read the Stages 1-4 books last year and are ready for some new patterns, but they are still a bit young for the books intended for struggling older learners, like the Magic Belt, Totem and Alba readers and the Sound Out Chapter Books.
The new Little Learners books will be perfect for them, and I've just noticed that bulk purchases attract a discount. So I'm off to nag the literacy coordinator about getting at least one set for each early years (Grade Prep and Grade 1) classroom.
I predict these books will all be dog-eared in five minutes, like my own copies, and that they'll really help the children crack our spelling code. Which will mean fewer of them will need extra help from me, and I might occasionally get a proper lunch break on school days. Double hooray.