I am a firm believer in controlled books for struggling readers. However, my description of a decodable, controlled reader varies from the many I’ve found on the market. Since I teach short vowels with CVC words to early learners, I would like my decodable text to reflect that. I want the high-frequency non-phonemic (for now) words to be slowly introduced. I love colored illustrations that are compelling, and there has to be a bit of a plot. So my search for solid short vowel books continues. On a whim, I decided to give it a go and write a few. I found it an incredibly rewarding experience. Entering the market now are my Bug Books.
Who hasn’t sat through their second round of the only short a books you can find, wondering if it would be possible to write something a bit more riveting than A fat rat sat? I have. So much that I compiled a list of all the short a words that are CVC with no blends or digraphs. (They do include double consonants as in bill). I then categorized them into 4 groups: nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. There are a lot of nouns, but far fewer verbs which makes options for activity limited. The cat can nap, the rat can nap, the ram can nap. You probably see where that could go: an entire book of sleeping. However, that is not all bad. Repeated reading, when delivered correctly, has been proven to be effective.
The Bug Books series is cleverly illustrated by Lex Bianchi. Her style is fun and creative. Through a young lens, she brings a fresh feeling to the books. I am thrilled to collaborate with her. Our books are contemporary. They include a rapping teacher, a cab with GPS, and a shop owner who places social media ads! We have gender-bending jobs with women in business and science. When a child looks at a book, I want them to smile. I need them to be excited to read, and I encourage them to have something to say about the story. Illustrations can broaden the depth of a story. With these books, I wanted to stretch their thinking. The illustrations Lex drew enhanced the text for the reader. A perfect example of this is Nat, who owns a hat shop. Using the word shop was out of the question in a short a CVC book, so Lex cleverly wrote, Nat's Hats on the wall. Now it was inferred this was a store.
Every story has a situation; sentences end in questions allowing for an opportunity for conversations that could include comprehension and prediction. Words are tapped into for multiple meanings such as bat: an animal, bat the ball as an action verb, and a baseball bat, to increase vocabulary. The Bug Books Series are sets of 7 books for each short vowel. Because Orton Gillingham is cumulative, the previously taught vowel is seen along with the new material. I am introducing the vowels following this sequence; a, i, o, u, e, along with frequently seen, non-phonemic function words.
While in beta testing, students smiled at the cute characters, chuckled as they read the predicaments the bugs found themselves in, and initiated conversation. The books passed the test with my harshest critics. I hope you enjoy them too!