Decodable Books for Young Readers

Posted on June 5, 2023

by Ready to Read

Learning to read is an important, exciting, and sometimes challenging period for families. As with any new skill, learning to read takes a lot of practice.

Finding books for early readers can be anything but easy. The Library’s Ready to Read team recommends families check out two types of books to encourage reading practice.

First, families should continue to select a variety of picture books or nonfiction books. While these books may be too challenging for young readers to tackle on their own, reading books that are fun and of high interest to children will help build their language comprehension. Research is clear- we should support new readers by reading aloud as often as possible. It helps children with fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and overall reading interest. Research also says children who love to read will want to learn how to read. More importantly, they will stick with it, even when reading is difficult. Be sure to keep reading fun!

Next, children need books where they can practice phonics and reading skills. Families should seek decodable texts. Decodables rely on the letter patterns and sounds that a child has already been taught. They contain very few non-phonetic high-frequency words, giving children plenty of opportunities to practice mapping letters to the sounds they already recognize. Reading decodable books encourages children to read the words on the page, without memorizing, guessing, relying on pictures, or skipping words.

Decodables are different from leveled texts. Book levels are determined by calculating the length of words, sentence length, and sentence complexity. Use caution when introducing leveled texts to early readers. Because leveled texts do not rely on the letter sounds and patterns to assign levels, children often rely on the pictures, sentence patterns, and otherwise guessing, rather than sounding out the words written on page. Although leveled books present problems for decoding, they are still great practice for children developing their reading fluency.

For more tips on strengthening your child’s decoding skills read: 10 Books to Help Teach Your Child to Read.

For more support, contact the Library’s Ready to Read Team ( Request a training for a free kit of books and literacy materials for your birth through third grade children.

Here are a few decodable books to try with your early reader at each stage.

Step 1 For Beginning Readers:

These decodables are filled with closed syllables or CVC words. Readers will work on words with short vowel sounds that are largely single-syllable words. These are best for readers just starting.

Stage 2: Emerging Readers:

For readers ready for the next step, these decodables introduce multisyllabic words including open syllable words, silent e, and an increasing use of blends and diagraphs. These decodables will continue to practice closed, single syllable, short vowel words mastered in the beginning stage.

Bob Books Set 3: Word Families


Dog on a Log Chapter Book Collection Series, #3


Stage 3: Developing Readers

For our readers nearing decoding independence, these decodables introduce vowel teams (oo, ea, ai), r controlled syllables (ar, ir, er, or, ur), consonant -le syllables (table, candle), the schwa sound, three+ letter blends (spr, thr, scr) , diphthongs (oi, oy), contractions, and silent consonants (climb, knight).

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