How to…read a nonfiction decodable book

How to...

In our ‘how to…’ series we are going to delve into all things phonics instruction and give you our expert advice on developing confident readers.


Nonfiction decodable books are wonderful reading resources. They combine two essential parts of reading: word recognition (decoding) and world knowledge (language comprehension and subject vocabulary).

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Educators now recognize that world knowledge has an important part to play in reading comprehension. Students who lack world knowledge can’t make sense of a text that presumes they have general knowledge. For example, a sentence that describes a character as a “fossil” will have little meaning to a student who has not learned about what fossils are and how they are created.

The Dandelion World series features “Knowledge Builder” pages that include pictures and text about the subject of the book. The series also includes a glossary so that students can learn new words that are beyond their decoding skills. By including knowledge-building pages, the students can develop their world knowledge orally without being limited only to a text they can read. As learning about a subject supports reading comprehension, it is advisable to immerse the students in the knowledge first and only then read the decodable book. 

Before reading the decodable text, teachers can start by asking the students what they know about the topic. This way new learning is built on what the students already understand and know. Then teachers can read the “Knowledge Builder” pages to the students and teach the vocabulary. Next, they can then ask questions to ensure that the students have understood the subject and vocabulary. They then read the decodable books and facilitate a discussion. Finally, teachers can link the text the students have decoded to the subject knowledge already learned.

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