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Decodable text for teens and adults

People (wonderful and supportive people) often ask us to recommend their decodable readers, even some written for teens and adults, but we decline. This is because the vast majority of TRT learners, even those who are working slowly through the *Foundation levels, are not beginning readers.

  • They all come with some sight words so there’s no reason to limit those in text.
  • They usually know all the basic alphabet sounds for both reading and writing and can work with multisyllabic words from the first lesson.
  • That Reading Thing is structured to get a student from ‘sap’ to ‘recognition’ in 3-5 hours. Students with more entrenched difficulties might take 6-9 hours, but that’s far quicker than most beginning phonics programmes.
  • We also have a policy of not reading anything they’d be embarrased to be seen with by their peers.

There’s no decodable reading scheme that takes all those things into consideration. (If you know one, tell us, please.) That said, we’re not against decodables for little ones and we’re not against controlling text to guarantee success for people who feel that reading is beyond them. Even FE teachers who don’t like phonics at all will choose text for simple syntax and familiar vocabulary when working with adult learners. We just add expected code knowledge into the mix.

It’s easy to find text for students who are flying through the Foundation levels, but those who are working hard rather than flying need more carefully selected reading material. We suggest looking for high interest articles and stories that contain a lot of words your student will be able to decode at a certain TRT level. Sometimes it will be about something they’ve asked for – a hobby or other interest – but sometimes you just stumble across a story you think will be fun to read together.

Many years ago I was still learning about appropriate text and I thought an excerpt from this online news article would be great for a teenager who was working slowly, taking maybe 4 hours to get up to Level 7 (split vowels). At that level, expected code knowledge is still pretty restricted, so I was thrilled to find so many words that were either decodable or decodable with one sound given. In the first sentence alone are:

when     Dave    staggered    up   Jeff   drenched    in     astonished   logger    think    thing    man    get    him    hospital                                                              








See the whole article – opens as a pdf.

However, a lot of decodable words won’t necessarily make a text easy to read. In my enthusiasm I hadn’t considered that a 14-year-old in Birkenhead wouldn’t know what a cougar, logger or loading machine were and Rheaume (a familiar name to me) would be far too distracting. To top it off, when they read the sentence that started, “Bundling the 61 year old mill worker”, the student thought the man’s name was Bundling. So decodable isn’t enough! For the next student, I created a more straightforward version of the excerpt and brought it along with the original so they could see the photos and try to read it if they wanted to. It still has a little complexity but is much easier to read and discuss.












For more on authentic reading material and phonics see:

Books for struggling readers – lowest ability

Books for struggling readers  – middle ability

Books for struggling readers – higher ability

*Foundation levels: Words and syllables: all basic code cvc, cvcc, ccvc and beyond, sh/ch/th, split vowels, ck/x/qu (review), endings: le, y, er, ing, tion, and ed.

Followed by the Advanced Levels and the concepts of Look the Same, Sound different (sunny, try, yet, myth) and Sound the Same, Look Different (cat, kit, black, Chris, tobacco, cheque)

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