What Should We Read When it Comes to Encoding and Decoding?

Decodable books are 80% wholly decodable by readers, leaving only 20% of words irregular or recognizable on sight. Controlled, decodable readers follow a sequence of instructions, allowing students to apply decoding strategies independently. Decodable texts walk alongside developing readers and provide motivation and encouragement.
Grade level reading

When partnered with fluency instruction, such as repeated or choral reading and comprehension strategies, these texts encourage students to layer strategies to become strong readers. Even when one can read, they choose not to. Why do some students not find reading rewarding?

When reading books or passages at a frustration level, students spend too much time and cognitive effort on decoding at the word level, leaving little room for fluency and comprehension. Decodable texts provide opportunities for the application of learned skills. This is empowering to students – and empowered readers become intrinsically motivated. 

Decodable poems are naturally phrase-cued texts which encourage students to group words into meaningful phrases. When purposeful illustrations accompany texts, it supports the development of visual imagery linked to deeper meaning. Similarly, decodable passages and books with illustrations serve as stepping stones toward chapter books. The development of decoding skills must be partnered with vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension strategies. 


Be sure to check out the rest of our blog series on Encoding vs. Decoding:

Please connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to get tips and tricks from your peers and us. Read the IMSE Journal to hear success stories from other schools and districts, and be sure to check out our digital resources for refreshers and tips.

About The Author

Ginny Simank is a Level 4 IMSE OG Master Instructor living in Dallas, Texas. She has a master’s degree (M.Ed.) with a Reading Specialist certificate and holds certifications in special education, English as a Second Language, and generalists for Early Childhood through 6th grade & ELA 4th-8th grades. She is an IDA-certified Structured Literacy Teacher and full-time instructor for the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE), whose mission is to train others across the country (teachers, administrators, tutors, education professionals & parents) in the Orton Gillingham methodology of multi-sensory language instruction. Ms. Simank previously served on the national board of directors for the Learning Disabilities Association and was a member of the LDA’s Education & Nominating Committees.


  1. Bowers, Peter (2009). Teaching How the Written Word Works. www.wordworkskingston.com.
  2. Ehri, L. “Orthographic Mapping in the Acquisition of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary Learning,” Scientific Studies of Reading 18 (2014): 5–21; and Kilpatrick, Essentials of Assessing. 
  3. Ehri, L., et al., “Systematic Phonics Instruction Helps Students Learn to Read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel’s Meta-Analysis,” Review of Educational Research 71 (2001): 393–447.
  4. Gallagher, K. (2003). Reading Reasons: Motivational Mini-Lessons for Middle School and High School. Portland, ME: Steinhouse Publishers.
  5. Henry, Marcia (2004). Unlocking Literacy, Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, Second Printing.
  6. Liuzzo, Jeanne (2020). Intermediate Training Manual, Institute for Multi-Sensory Education, p53-56.
  7. Moats, Louisa C. (2020). Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science (2020): What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able to Do. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.
  8. Olson, Carol Booth. 2003. The Reading/Writing Connection: Strategies for Teaching and Learning in the Secondary Classroom. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.