books, Teacher Hints

Decodable Readers

New readers need lots of practice. Most “easy readers” are really not very easy. They throw in all sorts of patterns that students who are being taught with a structured approach don’t know yet. The numbering or letter system is all over the place. A student may think they can read “level one” books but then find that level one from a different publisher is too challenging.

Worse are the “phonics” series of readers. They often feature popular movie or cartoon characters. They are often sold as boxed sets of small booklets. They appear at first glance to be decodable and appropriate for young readers. However, when you take a look they too throw all sorts of patterns together. They use many “sight words.” They may feature short vowels but they appear in multisyllabic words or have words with blends or long vowel words mixed in. In my experience they are highly frustrating to students. They want to read them because they are attracted to the characters. They think they ought be be able to read them because they are “easy” books. Parents can’t understand why their kiddos struggle with them.

I prefer to use books that are primarily decodable. I expect that there will be a few sight words or words with patterns that we haven’t encountered yet, but the bulk of the text will be decodable. The books will provide lots of practice with our current patterns.

A selections of books from my library.

These are my favorite series.

  1. SPIRE Illustrated Readers– These are readers that go with the SPIRE reading program. Even if you don’t use SPIRE (I don’t) they are a solid choice. The illustrations are black and white. There is a picture on each page. The books are 14 pages long. Each features a specific pattern (open syllables, 2 closed syllable words, soft c and so forth). There are A and B sets and each set includes ten titles. They aren’t wildly exciting but my students like them just fine. While they may not re-read favorites, they don’t complain about these books. You can order them directly from the publisher.
  2. Flyleaf Books to Remember– These are beautiful illustrated books. Some of my kids just love them and read and re-read favorites. They are richly illustrated with full color pictures. They look like typical picture books so older struggling readers may be turned off. In my experience it’s mixed. Some of my older students are very self conscious and only want chapter books. They may agree to take a SPIRE reader or other pamphlet sized book but will not take one of these. Some others love them. My kiddos that are about 3rd grade and younger love these. The stories are interesting. The books usually have about 20-30 pages. Often there is text on every other page. The type of story is varied. Some are realistic and some are fantasy. There are some non-fiction titles as well. The books feature phonetic patterns. They do include sight words and what the author calls “story puzzle words” These story words may not be decodable at the student’s level. The text is not as tightly controlled as some other books. The language is less stilted. If you need completely decodable text, these may not be a good choice. I have used them with great success and they are by far the most popular decodable series in my library.
  3. Dandelion Launchers by Phonic Books
  4. Moon Dogs Series by Phonic Books The Dandelion Launchers are very simple first books. My kids love the bright and colorful illustrations. They are best for young readers. Older struggling readers will probably find them babyish. The Moon Dog books are a better choice for older beginning readers. They are simple and short. The colorful illustrations combine drawn characters with photo backgrounds (my students think this is cool). The books follow a group of teens who have a band. These have been very popular with my students. Each book has about 6 pages. Each page has just a few lines of text. They are not overwhelming to readers at the start of remediation.
  5. Sound Out Chapter Books by High Noon The Sound Out Chapter Books are not thrilling but look more like real books so are great for self conscious older struggling readers. They have a few black and white illustrations. The stories are broken up into short chapters. The books have about 25 pages. They are a solid addition to your collection.
  6. All About Reading Readers These books are a collection of short stories. The illustrations are charming and most of my students have enjoyed the books. These are the readers for the reading instruction program from All About Reading. As with the SPIRE books they make a good addition to many programs. These books don’t circulate in my library (unlike all the others I’ve mentioned) but I use them often in lessons and they are popular.
  7. Dr. Maggie’s Phonics Readers The books in set one are mostly decodable. They work well for some students but may frustrate others. For instance the book Pom-Pom’s Big Win is mostly decodable for students who can read CVC words. There are a few blends (spin, grin) a few easy sight words, and a few harder “story words” (today, day, toy, blue, ribbon). I have found some of the individual titles in sets 1 and 2 better than others. Many of my students like these books. They are borrowed often. The illustrations are engaging. The books are short and there is not much text per page.
  8. Now I’m Reading series by Nora Gaydos. These small books are very popular with my youngest readers. The Level One readers (Animal Antics, Clever Critters and Playful Pals) make fun first books. They have color illustrations and only a few words per page.

I own a number of Simple Words Decodable Chapter Books by C. Knebel. They are often initially appealing to my older struggling readers. They don’t look babyish, which is very important to some kiddos. However, most students that borrow one don’t finish it or if they do read the entire book are unwilling to borrow another. I have heard that they are popular with other struggling readers. I believe that they could be a great choice for some kids. They just haven’t been a big hit with my students.

A few Flyleaf Publishing books from my office library.

Although not books, The Literacy Nest on TpT has a number of decodable passages. They make great practice for homework.

Blue Cottage Reading: I sell a few collections of decodable sentences. I love to use these for lessons and extra practice at home. They work well for online lessons as you can open the file and share your screen for the student to read. I have three sets available:

CVC, Digraphs

Closed w/ Consonant Blends:

Two or Three Closed Syllables:

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