The Reading Genie Bruce Murray, College of Education

Read the sample book, Pig in a Bag.

Here is a Russian translation of this page by Fedor Mironov.

Wanted: Publisher for Reading Genie Books

Reading Genie Books is a series of decodable books for beginning readers. The short-vowel series consists of 14 books, two for each short vowel, one for extra practice after short i, and three books that introduce the digraphs ch, sh, and th while reviewing short vowel patterns.  The long vowel series is composed of 16 books, two books to introduce the several correspondences for each long vowel, and books to introduce several additional vowel digraphs: er/or/ur, ar/or, ou/ow, au/aw, and oi/oy. Altogether, the correspondences taught are the most reliable vowels for decoding words in English.

Geri Murray is the author of the Reading Genie books. Geri has worked with pre-school children for 30 years, with an emphasis on promoting a love of literacy, and she earned her PhD in Reading Education in 2013. In the Reading Genie series, Geri introduces humor and plot surprises to make lively stories within the tight strictures of maintaining decodability.

Jason Adams created the charming illustrations for Pig in a Bag.  Jason created appealing and original characters, maintained characterization throughout the story, and added humor to flesh out the necessarily limited language of decodable books.

I have been Geri’s sounding board and consultant on decodability.  Decodable texts allow children to practice what they are learning about phonics in a way that motivates both reading and phonics lessons.  Look here for more information about decodable text.

In our series of decodable stories, we have tried to incorporate the best features of decodable children’s books we have studied.  While there are a great many beautifully illustrated books with delightful stories, there are surprisingly few with words beginning  readers can identify to get meaning.   As a result, children resort to other strategies, e.g., memorizing word spellings, reciting repetitive patterns, or guessing from pictures.  Delightful literature cannot touch children’s lives when they cannot read words.

Attempts at creating engaging decodable text have not been particularly successful.  Even Dr. Seuss experienced uneven success in composing books children could read themselves; his decodable stories have little story structure.  Lesser writers have fared much worse.  The dry, tongue-twisting texts of an earlier era (“Dan had a tan fan”) failed to capture children’s interests, and teachers, steeped in the rich atmosphere of children’s literature, were unwilling to trade off virtually all literary qualities to gain decodability.

Most available decodable texts carry relatively dull stories and unappealing illustrations.  Authors often fail to expand the vocabulary as new correspondences are introduced.  Some series do not introduce many important consonant and vowel digraphs, and thus do not support a complete phonics program.  Others do not follow the typical a-e-i-o-u order; they may introduce consonant digraphs late (after long vowels) and devote books to consonant clusters rather than introducing clusters (essentially blending problems rather than separate correspondences) along with the vowel patterns.

Our Reading Genie books are fully decodable texts, that is, they are carefully matched to the correspondence knowledge of beginning readers so that each new word (other than high frequency function words) is decodable using existing correspondence knowledge.  Pig in the Bag requires only knowledge of basic consonants and the short vowels ae, and i.  Readers accumulate correspondences with each successive story, allowing a gradually richer and more natural vocabulary and sentence structure. Our stories grow in length as children rapidly develop decoding ability by reading decodable texts. We cover the full range of vowel correspondences with review books on consonant digraphs, and we use a more generally accepted order of introducing correspondences:  Short vowels, then consonant digraphs, then long vowels, beginning with silent e patterns and followed by long-vowel digraphs, and finally other vowel patterns (diphthongs and r-controlled vowels). This means our books will work nicely as supplementary materials for most adjunct phonics programs.

We have also added a feature to our series that will help motivate readers:  The stories follow two familiar families of children and animals through a series of adventures. In this way, each new text plays on previous stories rather than requiring children to learn about different settings and characters each time.  This was a feature of the very successful Scott-Foresman readers of the fifties and sixties:  Charming illustrations and familiar characters helped children stay with stories that were otherwise dry and repetitive.  They work even better with our engaging children’s stories.

At present, the educational pendulum is swinging back in the direction of explicit and systematic decoding instruction.  State adoption rules in Texas, California, and other states are creating a demand for decodable text.  Teachers are hungry for books that children can read rather than recite. Many parents and teachers are asking for decodable books that meet reasonable standards of illustration and literature.  The market pressure for quality series of decodable books is growing.

Return to the Reading Genie homepage.

Last modified: June 2, 2018