Workshops comparing decodable books

18 Replies

Schools everywhere are replacing their predictable/repetitive texts for beginners/strugglers with decodable texts. Excellent. Kids need to practice decoding words, not guessing or rote-memorising them.

There’s been a recent market explosion of decodable books. I’ve just updated my website list, and discovered that the Reading League in the US has an even bigger list. My head is spinning. It would be very sad if people spent a lot of money on well-marketed, pretty, but pedagogically low-quality ones, then tried them out, didn’t like them, and went back to predictable/repetitive texts.

I’d like to be able to write a blog post giving my full and frank opinions about the range of decodables we have in the Spelfabet office. Well, maybe not the ones we keep at the bottom of the back cupboard. Unfortunately, we live in a litigious world, so I’d have to check such a blog post with a lawyer first.

However, I can invite locals to small workshops to have a Proper Look at these books, and discuss their features, advantages and disadvantages. After so much online learning and online shopping, that’d be a nice thing to do.

We’ve almost finished setting up our display of decodable books suitable for early years children in our workshops room, see photo above. My excellent colleagues Georgina Ryan and Elle Holloway have spent many hours preparing information sheets about each set of books, and I’m just finishing the task off.

I’ll be running a two-hour in-person, hands-on session about this display on Wednesday 22nd May from 1.30pm till 3.30pm, and more will be scheduled soon. Numbers are strictly limited to 20 people per session. If you work at a City of Yarra, Merri-Bek or Darebin school or local library (our local patch) please email from your work address with the name of your school for a 50% discount code. Click here for a ticket.

We don’t have every available decodable book series, or full sets of every series, but once we’ve added a few new things, our early years display will include texts from:

We also have the No Nonsense Phonics kit (UK) and iPads with decodable books as apps, and a projector to show you a few cool online things, like the new Reading Doctor decodable texts (hilarious pictures are on the following page, so you CAN’T guess from them!). Please note that the workshops will be about decodable books for youngsters, not older, catch-up readers (8+ years to adult). We’ll need another whole session or two to discuss them. Let us know if that’s of interest.

If you’re local and want to attend, but can’t do so on Wednesday afternoons, let us know when would suit you at You might also like to try the Decodable Book Selectors from NSW SPELD.

Alison Clarke

Speech Pathologist


18 responses to “Workshops comparing decodable books”

  1. Maribeth Adams says:

    Hi Alison,

    I was hoping to see a truly excellent series on your list. UFLI lists it, and our school owns all the levels.

    The kids love the books, which are visually appealing and interesting at each level.

    Please check into Syllasense – created in Canada!



    • alison says:

      Hi Maribeth, thanks for pointing this series out, it looks great. I’ve added a link to my resources page. Unfortunately they don’t ship to Australia, and are written for a rhotic dialect, so they probably need some modification before they could be used here in Australia. So my local people won’t be able to buy them even if they wanted to, and there’s no point in putting them on my display. But it’s wonderful that you have such excellent books at your school, and how good is UFLI!!?? All the best, Alison

  2. JD says:

    Hi Alison, A session for older readers would be of interest to us. Thanks. JD

  3. Merran Brear says:

    You may also like to check out Betty Sewell’s decodable books (NZ)

    • alison says:

      Hi Merran, I have had a look at them online and there is a link to them in my resources list, but I can’t afford everything all at once, so I am just trying to focus on Tier 1 books at present (prevention is better than cure!). If the workshops stack up and recoup the time and money I’ve spent on the display, I’ll start getting more of the Tier 2/3 resources and set up a display of them. We have enough of those for our own needs at present, we use Sounds-Write so the sequence is the one in the Phonic Books, but we have quite a few other things. Thanks for the prompt, one day I’ll have a Proper Look at Betty’s books too. I use her apps. All the best, Alison

  4. Danielle Yakoubian says:

    Hi there,
    I’m working in a Middle School (5-8) and would love some ideas of texts to use for intervention with Year 5 and 6 struggling readers (catch up readers).

    Please keep me informed of any relevant workshops.

  5. Sandy Morgan says:

    Hi Alison,
    We are just outside (Nillumbik) but would love to be able to come and view when you open this up to the wider community. Would also be interested in older readers books.

  6. Nathaniel Swain says:

    Fantastic work as always, Alison!

    • alison says:

      Thanks! I’m in the process of turning Spelfabet into a Social Enterprise (small business, gah, not really my thing), and trying to get INMELLCOP actually going after four years of swimming through mud, let’s see how it goes. We had a goal of every school in Yarra, Merri-bek and Darebin using structured literacy and decodables within five years, maybe it’s still achievable in the next five.

  7. Mitzi Sinclair says:

    I also suggest Express Readers. They are wonderful and my students love them.

  8. Elizabeth Keenan says:

    Hi Alison,
    Can you suggest any book series appropriate for adult migrant beginner-level learners?
    Thank you,

  9. Megan King says:

    My 10 year old (considered non-verbal, level 3 autistic, severe ID) is making great progress with Sounds Write protocol. He needs 20 to 30 times the practice so I’ve spent over $600 to date on readers, many aren’t appropriate, so I would love to attend. Any chance I can attend via zoom? Hard to get out of the home.
    PS We ended up with the box sets of Fantails (Anna Kirschberg) as they’re non-fiction, real-life pictures and don’t rely on people names like Pip and Tim (the autism social challenges means my son is more easily able to identify nouns than people’s names). It helps him connect meaning to his world.
    And also First Little Readers – they’re definitely not perfect but actually very engaging and amusing stories.
    He really likes the comic-book style of Dog Man, but again they’re not structured and decodable.

    • alison says:

      Hi Megan, the idea of these workshops is to give people hands-on exposure to the books, so I am not offering them online, it’s too hard to cater to a mixed audience well in the time available. Have you tried the Fox Kid books? They sound just what you need: They have been so popular with our clients that I will need to order more soon myself. Thanks for the tips re Fantails and First Little Readers, maybe I can get them secondhand, I’ve more than blown my budget for this display. All the best, Alison

  10. MG says:

    Wow! So many options! My school has Sounds Write and Little Learners, but unfortunately they’re not being well-utilised by teachers in classrooms. Still using predictable texts as well. My daughter’s school is using even less decodeables. Sigh. But my hope is that we’re getting there slowly and keep moving in the right direction…

    I’m a speech path in Hume/Whittlesea, but would be interested in a future workshop 🙂

    • alison says:

      Hi, sorry for slow reply, I KNOW! People keep telling me about more and more! I am frantically trying to work out how to fit everything into a two hour workshop and if it’s a success I will schedule a whole bunch of them, hope one of them will suit you. They are the secret sauce for a good phonics program so we need to make sure schools get enough good ones and use them well. All the best, Alison

  11. Annette van Brakel says:

    Very interesting to hear about your social enterprise endeavours. Will you still be able to sell your resources too?

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