Decodable books are books that have controlled text. The words are simple to decode. They typically follow a sequence of skill progression such as short vowels, digraphs, long vowels. This is helpful for students as they are at the beginning stages of reading. The benefit of using decodable text is that students do not encounter many unfamiliar words that they can not figure out by using the strategy of sounding it out.
One challenge of these books, especially for ELLs is that the language can be awkward. Some of the vocabulary words used may not be familiar to students. It is important to expose students to a wide range of reading materials and not limit them only to decodable texts. This is especially true for older ELLs. Using text sets is one way to help increase students vocabulary while they are learning how to decode.
Using Decodable Texts with ELLs
For young students consider using decodable texts some of the time for guided reading. This will allow students to practice their emerging decoding skills and not get frustrated with challenging words that they are unable to sound out.
You can also have students use decodable texts as part of a phonics or word study lesson. First have students complete word sorts. Then students can go on a word hunt Have them look through the books for examples of words that have a phonics pattern that they are learning. For example “make a list of words that have the short a /a/ sound.”
For older ELLs, decodable texts are one tool that is particularly helpful for students that are not literate in their home language. As they are learning phonics skills they can practice using books. There are chapter books students can read.
Decodable Emergent Readers
These are short books for emergent readers. Students that are just beginning to learn letter sounds and require a short amount of text on each page. Many of the books focus on a set of skills. A book is decodable if the student has been taught the phonics patterns to the majority of the words. Books might have some high frequency words with unfamiliar patterns.
One-page decodable phonics books. Each book focuses on a phonics skill. Students will have multiple opportunities to reach words for that target phonics pattern.
The books are controlled and follow the sequence of short vowels, digraphs, blends, CVCe long vowels, long vowel pairs, r-controlled vowels. To create the book print out one piece of paper and fold it two times.
Emergent readers and decodable books– In this set get an emergent reader that you can read out loud to students. There is a companion one-page decodable text that goes along with each book.
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Junior Learning Nonfiction Decodables (also goes by Beanstalk Books)- Nonfiction books with photographs. There are multiple levels of books that increase in difficulty. The books use controlled text and sight words. Here is a closer look inset the blend (phase 4) sets.
The first set has some books with only one sentence on each page. The first 3 books have a loose theme, but it is difficult to tell what it is from the title. For example, A Tusk is Hard is about opposites. The rest of the books more closely line up with the title. A Duck in a Pond is about a duck that lives in a pond.
Set 2 and the science set of the blends books have two or three lines of text on each page and slightly more difficult phonics patterns. The focus is on blends but there are some long vowels and vowel pairs. They are often on sale on Rainbowresource.com.
Whole Phonics books are brightly colored books with fun stories. Set one has short vowels, set two has digraphs, set three has blends and suffixes. The amount of text gets longer with each book. The books have a diverse set of characters. You are able to purchase the books individually or as sets.
Targeted Phonics– This set of books have colorful drawings that show kids in a range of activities. There are word families, short vowels, and long vowel sets. The stories are often very simple. They are often on sale on Rainbowresource.com.
Little Learners Love Literacy– This set of decodable fiction books are published in Australia. The books start out very simple with only a few short vowel words on each page. There are 6 basic levels and one advanced level included. The books follow the same cast of characters. Many of the books have plot endings that lend themselves to student writing. There are some words that students in the United States may be unfamiliar with (fairy floss, mum, bin).
Heggerty Decodable books– The Frog series are written for students in first grade. The books focus on multiple phones patterns in each book. The books are paired with a fiction story and nonfiction book about one of the animal characters. These books may be challenging for struggling readers due to some of the character names and vocabulary words included. Consider using them as shared reading books if students are unable to read independently.
The Tucan series are books written for 2nd-4th graders. These books feature diverse characters and engaging stories.
Bob Books– This set of books have sets that increase in difficulty. They start with letter sounds and moves on to short vowels, blends, and long vowels. The illustrations are simple without color.
The Yak Pack– This set of books has sets that increase in difficulty. It starts with short vowels, digraphs, and blends. The illustrations are simple without color.
Now I’m Reading!– This set of books has sentences and phrases that increase in difficulty. The first sets have short vowels and blends, other sets have long vowels and word endings.
Benchmark Education Decodable Readers– Benchmark has a large collection of decodable readers. Each book focuses on a phonics skill. The beginning sets have cvc words with a focus on letter sounds, it progresses to long vowel patterns. Designed for k-1. The nonfiction titles are appropriate for older students.
Flyleaf publishing decodable texts– Flyleaf publishing has decodable books designed for students in grades k-3. Each book has colorful illustrations. You are able to view the phonics skill covered in each book.
TERL Phonics– This set of decodable books starts with short vowels and moves on to long vowels and multisyllabic words. They have colorful photographs and are designed for high school students.
Geodes- This classroom set of books align with the Wilson reading program sequence. Currently, they are only available as class sets. The books help to build content knowledge as well as give students practice decoding.
Peppa Pig– For young students, this set of phonics books has familiar characters. The books do a good job of sticking with simple to decode words. It is one of the few character phonics sets I have come across that students can read independently.
Flyleaf publishing currently has its decodable emergent readers available as free ebooks. Each book has colorful illustrations and a fun story.
Beyond Decodables are 80-90% decodable. They were written to be culturally relevant to children living in Baltimore City MD. They are available as printable pdfs and digital pdfs.
SPELD SA Phonic Readers have pdf books that are very simple. Each page has one line of text. The characters are from the Anangu, Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.
Core Knowledge has free pdf student readers starting in unit 6 of kindergarten through second grade with each of their skill lessons. You are also able to purchase printed versions of the books.
Phonics play comics have short comic strips that are arranged by beginning letter sounds, digraphs, long vowels, and advanced phonics. You can view the commis digitally or as printable pdfs.
Decodable Chapter Books
Chapter books are helpful for older students that are still learning how to decode. They allow students to feel like they are reading “real” books similar to their peers.
The Cat on the Mat is Flat– This silly rhyming book has funny illustrations that go along with the decodable and rhyming text.
Rex Runs Off– This series of chapter books primarily uses cvc words with some additional high frequency words that are listed at the beginning of the book. The stories are about the adventures of the dog Rex and the kids that take care of him.
Sound Out Chapter Books– This series of books use short vowels and then long vowels for realistic fiction stories. The series also has nonfiction books.
Simple Words Books– This set of chapter books have a mix of basic phonics patterns including short and long vowels. The books have short sentences to not overwhelm beginning readers.
In Choosing and Using Decodable Texts, Wiley Blevins explains the importance of using decodable texts. He goes over lesson ideas for using the texts with students and offers tips on how to select high quality texts.
In Fear not the decodable why when how, Heidi Anne Mesmer, PhD reviews what decodable readers are and when to use them with students.
In The Role of Decodable Readers in Phonics Instruction Nina A. Lorimor-Easley reviews what decodable readers are and compares them to leveled texts.