TextProject’s Decoding + Knowledge Program

    by Elfrieda (Freddy) H. Hiebert | July 27, 2023

    Side profile of a young boy reading a tablet. To his right, the heading Decoding + Knowledge: DecodableReads + TopicReads - Primary

    Children need to see lots and lots of texts to become proficient beginning readers. To increase text exposure to engaging, curriculum-based texts, we are launching a new program at TextProject: TextProject’s (TP) Decoding + Knowledge Program. Our aim is to give teachers, tutors, caregivers, and others easy access to texts that they can use to support children’s automatic and meaningful beginning reading. TextProject’s Decoding + Knowledge Program has two distinct but connected text sets:

    • DecodableReads™ are short, engaging stories that reinforce consistent, common vowel patterns in words and high-frequency words.
    • TopicReads-Primary are informational text sets around a topic. The words in the texts are based on the same decoding and high-frequency curriculum as the DecodableReads.

    The two components of TP’s Decoding + Knowledge Program—DecodableReads and TopicReads-Primary—are based on strong scientific theory and research. The simple model of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986) describes comprehension as resulting from decoding plus language comprehension or knowledge. The text sets within TP’s Decoding + Knowledge Program support both parts of the simple view of reading equation.

    Intended Students and Use:

    The texts are intended for students who can recognize some words by mid-first grade but not with high levels of automaticity. Research indicates that mid-year first graders from the 10th through the 40th percentiles can recognize an average of 13 words on mid-first-grade word recognition tests (Anderson et al., 2014). The 23 words that this group recognizes by the end of the year include words with short and long vowels as well as variant vowels (e.g., the, was). With extended opportunities to read accessible texts, they can increase their automaticity with known words and apply their knowledge of vowel patterns to a larger group of words.

    Both text sets are intended to be used for application that extends the reading programs that schools, districts, and states have purchased. Neither component comes with the ancillary material that is typical of an entire instructional program, such as teachers’ guides or spelling, writing, or phonological awareness activities. The texts are aimed to be used for extended reading opportunities—with tutors, teachers, parents, and others.

    The Research Based Curriculum:

    The underlying curriculum is like that of most commercial programs. The texts are designed around words that share common patterns, not individual Grapheme-Phoneme Correspondences. The research underlying this model of curriculum comes from the studies of Ehri et al. (2007) and Menon and Hiebert (2005). In these studies, texts were chosen for their alignment with a curriculum where the focus was on words with a common pattern, such as short vowels or short vowels with blends or digraphs. For example, a DecodableRead, A Snug Bug, has words with the short u but it also has words with short e, i, and u. The words known by first graders in the 10th through 40th percentiles show that they do not learn first words with one short vowel, then another, and so on. They learn words with short vowels sooner than words with long vowels. The texts of the TP Decoding + Knowledge Program are intended to give students opportunities to extend their ability to recognize known vowel patterns and to extend this knowledge to new words and patterns.

    The linguistic curriculum of DecodableReads and TopicReads-Primary texts follows:

    Program LevelVowel PatternsWords with Variant & Complex* VowelsWords with Multiple Syllabus
    AShort vowels and Long vowels at the end of a single syllable (e.g., me)Short vowels with consonant clusters (beginning or/& end)Short vowels in first syllable, followed by Consonant + y (e.g., puppy, happy)
    BShort vowels with consonant clusters (beginning or/& end)Words with variant (e.g., have, some, what) and complex (e.g., out, more, how) vowels in 26 to 100 most-frequent wordsInflected endings & comparatives with short vowels in 1st syllable (e.g., bigger, jumping)
    Compound words with short vowel in first syllable (e.g., cupcake)
    CLong vowelsWords with variant (e.g., great, head) and complex (e.g., young, air, school) vowels in 101-300 most-frequent words.Words with variant or complex vowels in first syllable (e.g., father, people)
    Compound words with long vowel in first syllable (e.g., seagull, daytime)
    *Complex vowels = vowel diphthongs (e.g., boy), r-controlled vowels (e.g., for, door)

    The Content of TopicReads – Primary

    Each TopicReads-Primary consists of a bundle of 4 texts. The 24 book bundles currently in the program fall into four domains:

    LevelOur Communities:
    Home, School, & Beyond
    The World of AnimalsEarth & BeyondOurselves: Fun, Games & Clothes
    Level A—Short VowelsJobs

    At School


    Caps and Hats

    Ways We Move
    Level BShort vowels with consonant clusters (beginning or/ & endSnacks


    Baby Animals

    Don’t Toss it Out
    Ball Games

    Level C—Long VowelsEarly Homes

    Meal Times
    Tails of Dogs & Cats


    Times at the Lake
    Sneaky Words

    Rope Games

    An Ongoing Effort

    We plan on adding texts to both the DecodableReads and TextProject-Primary components over the 2023-2024 school year! Keep visiting www.textproject.org to see new offerings.


    Anderson, D., Alonzo, J., Tindal, G., Farley, D., Irvin, P. S., Lai, C. F., … & Wray, K. A. (2014). Technical Manual: easyCBM. Technical Report# 1408. Behavioral Research and Teaching.

    Ehri, L. C., Dreyer, L. G., Flugman, B., & Gross, A. (2007). Reading rescue: An effective tutoring intervention model for language-minority students who are struggling readers in first grade. American Educational Research Journal, 44(2), 414-448.

    Gough, P. B., & Tunmer, W. E. (1986). Decoding, reading, and reading disability. Remedial and special education, 7(1), 6-10.Ehri et al.

    Menon, S., & Hiebert, E. H. (2005). A comparison of first graders’ reading with little books or literature‐based basal anthologies. Reading research quarterly, 40(1), 12-38