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Friday 20 May 2022

‘Decodable and Authentic’ – what does this actually mean?

An update to the Australian Curriculum (Version 9) has some interesting developments. Emma Nuttall provides a snapshot of one important addition that celebrates the value of quality literature to inspire young readers in their literacy development. 

‘read decodable and authentic texts using developing phonic knowledge, and monitor meaning using context and emerging grammatical knowledge’ (Australian Curriculum, version 9.0)

Is anyone else as excited as me about the inclusion of this content descriptor in the updated Australian Curriculum - English? This simple change in the Foundation and Year 1 curriculums has been greeted with great joy! Authenticity and accessibility in texts is fundamental to building strong literacy skills, as well as a passion for, and understanding of literature.

I’ve chatted here before about the gratitude that I feel towards authors for the wondrous and wonderful texts available. And I continue to be both amazed and impressed by the quality of texts available to be utilised to build both language comprehension and word recognition skills. 

As an educator, I get to ignite that passion for literature – I see that as an incredible opportunity that I feel most grateful for (I’m very grateful today, writing this, aren’t I?). Don’t get me wrong though, that opportunity also brings with it great challenge and responsibility. The responsibility of teaching a child to read is one that I take very seriously. The responsibility of enabling a child to experience the joys of reading is one that I take equally seriously. In order to do both, with our earliest of readers, we must provide them with exposure to rich, authentic and engaging texts that speak of wonder and sadness; mystery and joy; danger and excitement, as well as texts that children can access themselves from the beginning of their reading journey. And preferably, both.

What I have noticed recently is the availability of quality texts that are not only decodable and therefore accessible to our earliest readers, but also begin to introduce these concepts of awe and wonder in storytelling. We talk about decodable texts, as being texts that the reader can work out for themselves, using their knowledge of words and language. Now it remains obvious, that when the written text is independently accessible to a very early reader, it may not (and arguably can not) be as inspiring as books such as We Are Wolves (Katrina Nannestad, 2021 CBCA Book of the Year Awards Shortlist Book) or There’s No Such Thing (Heidi McKinnon, 2021 CBCA Book of the Year Awards Shortlist Book) due to the very nature of the literacy skills that our earliest readers have at the outset of their journey. 

But, fear not, we can provide these excitable young readers with both. Books that are decodable AND books that are authentic and engaging. And with this balance of provision, we will continue to see children that are as excited by their growing ability to access texts themselves, as they are about literature itself!

Emma Nuttall
Teacher, Literacy Coach, avid reader and parent of readers 

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