Bruce Murray, College of Education The Reading Genie

BOOKS FOR TEACHERS AND PARENTS

The stories from this new decodable book series can help children learn how to read.

Lad and His Pals and Fun and Games with Lad and Slim are now available to teachers and parents as print books, as Kindle eBooks, and as Apple Books for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Find more information here.

Decodable books arrange reading success for beginners by making sure the vowels taught in phonics lessons work in reading stories. The content words are carefully selected to require only the vowels taught to date to unlock the words. Of course, children still need a few dozen common, irregular function words (e.g., the, a, of, to, etc.). In a landmark study, Juel and Roper/Schneider found that first graders who read decodable stories in their reading series learned to read words better than children who read stories not engineered to be decodable, even though both groups had the same phonics lessons.

Lad and his Pals features 14 engaging decodable stories for practicing the five short vowels and the consonant digraphs sh, ch, and th. With these stories, phonics works to unlock the words, opening a window on the adventures of animals and children who become familiar storybook friends.

Fun and Games with Lad and Slim, the second volume in the series, has 15 engaging stories for more advanced beginners: two stories for each long vowel as well as stories for more advanced vowel digraphs (er, ir, and ur; ar and or; ou and ow; au and aw; and oi and oy). With a growing pool of words made available by all these new vowels, the authors were able to infuse the stories with even more drama, pathos, and humor.

Past attempts at creating decodable stories rarely succeeded. Teachers and parents, steeped in the rich atmosphere of beautifully illustrated children’s literature, groaned over joyless prose like “Dan had a tan fan.” These books incorporate the best features of past decodable stories: strong story structure, inviting illustrations, and a growing set of correspondences allowing an ever richer pool of words.

To engage children with each new story, readers encounter a common cast of characters across the stories. Like the Dick and Jane stories read by earlier generations, these stories follow two families of children and animals through a series of adventures, inviting children to re-enter the story world with familiar characters and situations. However, unlike Dick and Jane, these characters are culturally diverse, and some of the most important characters are animals—a dog, two cats, some angry geese, a mischievous snake, and a pet pig. Their experiences over all 29 stories tell an overarching tale of a country pig misplaced with a city family–a recipe for lots of trouble. 

Teachers and parents are looking for books beginners can read successfully. They know children can’t enjoy the wonderful stories in children’s literature until they learn to read words easily. Lad and His Pals and its companion volume, Fun and Games with Lad and Slim, provide teachers and parents with fun and engaging stories children can read without guesswork as a bridge to children’s literature.

Teachers in primary classrooms will find these books useful for phonics instruction with beginners and with struggling readers. Home-schooling parents will find in these books a basic resource for helping their children develop decoding ability with the most useful letter-sound correspondences for learning to read words in English.

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Last modified: August 1, 2019