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CRPS moving forward with decodable books

“It continues to demonstrate the large commitment to immersive literacy and numeracy."

CANMORE – Classes at Elizabeth Rummel School will each be getting a decodable book.

Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) board approved the $40,000 purchase after a request from the school’s council was made to provide additional resources when it comes to books that allow predictable text that contains repetitive words and sentences.

CRPS schools have access to decodable books – which allow children to sound out words using decoding strategies instead of guessing from photos or other aspects – after the board and administration expanded it to all schools. Some decodable books have been purchased in previous years.

“Research is supporting that decodable books build knowledge gradually,” said CRPS deputy superintendent Debbie McKibbin. “It allows students to practice what a word looks like and what it sounds like. It builds student confidence.”

University and independent educational research has shown decodable books build phonic knowledge gradually, allowing a student to practice grapheme-phoneme correspondence.

“Kindergarten and Grade 1, there is literacy instruction that includes systematic instruction in phonics," said McKibbin. “Decodable books allow children to develop and practice that really important skill.”

A limited number had been previously purchased, but now the program has expanded.

The decodable books were purchased from six different sources in English and French for use by kindergarten to Grade 8 students at Banff Elementary School, Alpenglow School, Exshaw School, Lawrence Grassi Middle School and Elizabeth Rummel School.

“Teachers and our learning support teachers were recognizing this was an additional tool to offer a comprehensive reading program and literacy instruction for students,” said McKibbin. “Providing high-quality books, including decodable books, is going to support our students on this path of increasing levels of literacy. We as educators have that moral imperative to ensure students have what they need.”

A variety of books were also chosen with diverse characters, including Indigenous characters, in both fiction and non-fiction styles. In all, 7,150 books will be present in CRPS schools.

“There is a need for some students to have books that are at their reading level, and this will help them practice,” McKibbin said.

CRPS Superintendent Chris MacPhee also put his support behind the purchase.

“It continues to demonstrate the large commitment to immersive literacy and numeracy,” he said.

At the most recent school board meeting, the question was raised if older students may need decodable books to receive a literary boost as well.

The books have already begun to arrive, and will be distributed to the schools immediately.

“These books we purchased are targeting kindergarten to grade eight,” said McKibbin. “They are designed with topics of that development range.”

They have also proven to be highly successful for the students who have already had to deal with the delays presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Putting additional resources like this in our schools, and in the hands of our teaching staff is already demonstrating increased levels of literacy and is closing the gap of skills lost or delayed during COVID,” McKibbin.

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