Choosing the Right Decodable Books for Your Students
By Carolee Dean, M.S., CCC-SLP, CALT
Decodable Books and Stories contain only the letters, sounds, and learned words that have been taught to a student. This highly controlled vocabulary encourages the use of decoding strategies and discourages guessing at unfamiliar words. Illustrations may support and enhance the text but should NOT be used for guessing how to pronounce words. These books promote errorless learning by sticking with patterns the student has been taught to decode. At least 95% of each book should contain words the student can sound out.
These books do have limitations. The scope and sequence of sounds presented will vary across different programs and publishers. Be sure to check out the various levels before deciding if a particular book or series is right for your student. Another concern is that the books written for the early levels of these programs may limit exposure to rich syntax and vocabulary. Be sure to share more complex books by reading aloud to your students or by using audio books as well as programs like Bookshare or Learning Ally so that students have the opportunity to listen to more complex text. Many schools offer students with dylexia subscriptions to Learning Ally. If your child does not have access to Learning Ally books and you are a parent who would like to purchase the service on your own, check out their website and the page for SOLUTIONS FOR HOME.
Many decodable books contain illustrations aimed at young children and may not appeal to older readers. Authors must manipulate the text to include a limited vocabulary set and this can result in stilted storytelling. Finally, because the text is so controlled, it is difficult to include stories that contain non-fiction subjects.
Read the blog Shanahan on Literacy for suggestions on how to improve students’ knowledge base even while focusing on reading instruction.
Hi-Lo Books are a different category completely. They are high-interest – low-readability texts with illustrations or photographs suitable for older readers. They are based on readability formulas that include elements like word and sentence length and word frequency. They are NOT decodable and may present challenges for students with dyslexia.
The HOT ROD Series (Higher Order Thinking through the Reading of Decodables) found here at Word Travel Press are decodable books designed to be of interest to older readers. More complex concepts and sentence structure are possible because of a strategy called Pair and Share reading. Find out more about this series on the HOT ROD page of this website and in the list below.
With the strengths and weaknesses of decodable books in mind, the following list was compiled with links to information about the scope and sequence of each book set when available. Listings are in alphabetical order by publisher. If you know of additional publishers creating decodable readers, please send the name and website information to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion on this page.
Inclusion on the list below does not imply endorsement
Decodable Book Publishers
Academic Therapy Publications (ATP) – High Noon
1. Little Sprouts – Sold in sets of 20 books covering CVC and blends. Find out more HERE.
2. Phonic Books – Dandelion Launcher Series. See the scope and sequence and book set information HERE.
3. Phonic Books – Alba Series is a fantasy adventure series of 12 books for readers age 8-12. Find the scope and sequence for each set HERE. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find additional Phonic Books Series.
(Find additional Scope and Sequence information across various Phonic Book series.)
4. Sound Out Chapter Books – Set A1 – Six Books total. Three of the books focus on CVC words, final double consonants, -ck endings, suffix -s. Three books focus on open-syllable long vowels, CVCe, and vowel pairs (ai, ay, ea, ee, ie, oa). See their WEBSITE for more information.
All About Learning Press
All About Reading is a program that includes lightly scripted lessons accompanied by books containing stories and poetry with color illustrations. Books may also be purchased separately. Lessons cover phonics, vocabulary, and comprehension. The levels include a pre-reading level and four additional levels. Each level has its own scope and sequence. This is the Scope and Sequence for Level 1.
Barton Reading and Spelling System
Stand Alone Chapter Books – Sets are sold as part of the Barton Reading Program. Books from levels 3-5 may be purchased separately as a set or individually. Some of the stories are based on classic fairly tales or fables. See the Scope and Sequence of the 10 Levels of the Program. To start browsing individual titles, go to the section for Stand Alone Books for LEVEL 3.
Early Phonics Readers – Books are sold individually. Each book focuses on a different short vowel sound. Find books HERE.
Ed and Mel’s Decodable Adventures follow the Scope and Sequence of the Barton Reading and Spelling System. Each chapter contains a parent or tutor read passage, a decodable student passage, and a game to play. Find books HERE.
EPS (Educator’s Publishing Service)
1) Primary Phonics has six levels, each sold as a set. See the description of the COMPONENTS of each level starting with 17 consonant sounds in Level 1 and ending with hard/soft c and g, silent letters, less frequent diphthongs and digraphs in Level 6. Books are sold in sets only.
2) Let’s Read Series. Moves from regular spellings to less regular spellings. Find more information HERE. There are 8 books in the series. Each book is sold separately and contains drill words and sentences without illustrations. The first book focuses on CVC words within sentences of 2-5 words. When students get to book 8, the average sentence length is 14-27 words and irregular vowel patterns are incorporated. Reading at this level focuses on short stories that are longer than previous books which often include unrelated short paragraphs.
Express Readers were designed for students in general education grades K-2, but may also be used for older struggling readers. They are sold in complete collections or smaller sets of 6-8 books. There are some free download samples of books available. They offer a complete program called the I Am Ready Program that include materials for teaching phonemic awareness, phonics, language and vocabulary, handwriting, early reading and site words. Visit the website at https://expressreaders.org for more details and to explore their Free Downloads, Free Online Assessment, Free Webinar Series, and the Scope and Sequence of the series.
Fly Leaf Publishing
Books to Remember – Find the scope and sequence of the 14 levels HERE. Books in Series 1-3 are sold as a set or separately. Click on the set and then see the link in the description for the single titles page. Example: Series 1 – SINGLE TITLES –
Open Source Phonics
Decodable Stories – This is a FREE resource. Check out their website HERE. The series is divided into 10 “Groups” of stories starting with Short Syllable Stories and progressing to Advanced Phonics Stories. Short reading passages in downloadable PDFs with no illustrations are available free of charge. A sequence of 120 lessons are also provided at no cost.
Also see ATP above. Find the Scope nd Sequence HERE. Books for Beginner Readers – Ages 2-8 and Catch-Up Readers ages 8+. Includes the Dandelion Launcher Series.
Reading with TLC
Sight Word Stories You Can Read Reproducible Books –Seven decodable stories are included in the downloadable PDF bundle of books based on the Sight Words You Can See program that is sold separately. After learning the sight words, the stories are decodable if the student has learned short vowels, vowel combinations, and r-controlled vowels. Find out more HERE.
Simple Words Chapter Books
They offer print and digital books and have partnered with Literacy Nest to provide literacy guides for their books that include both PDF and digital activities. Check out the website HERE. Find the Scope and Sequence of their decodable books HERE.
Sizzy Books – funphonics.com
Fun Phonics – The publisher is now offering these books as FREE downloads. Books include black and white illustrations and may be read online or downloaded and printed. Sentence completion activities appear at the end of each book for comprehension. Find the scope and sequence of the books HERE. Actual books may be downloaded on the WEBSITE.
SPELD (Specific Learning Difficulties)
SPELD SA Phonic Books – These books are free and may be printed or shared online. They may also be loaded onto an iPad, tablet, or computer. They include 93 books across five levels. The sequence of sounds presented correlates with the sequence taught in the Jolly Phonics synthetic phonics program. Learn about the books and the sequence at the SPELD SA WEBSITE. Work sheets and comprehension questions are also available.
Decodable Books – May be printed or used online as a virtual resource. The set contains 27 reproducible and decodable books that focus on spelling patterns in addition to high frequency irregular words. Find this resource HERE.
Voyager Sopris Learning
Power Readers Series – The set contains 28 decodable books and uses the same characters throughout the series. Books are sold in sets only. Information may be found on the WEBSITE. Pre and post activity pages support phonics concepts. Students begin with one syllable short vowel words and progress to two syllable closed vowel words. Stories include fiction, realistic fiction, and poetry.
Wilson Reading System
Fluency Readers were designed for use with the Wilson Reading System but can supplement any reading program that introduces short vowels within words and progresses to more challenging patterns. Each reader includes five short stories of 200-250 words along with fluency practice, word lists, and phrases. Fluency readers are sold in consumable packages of 6 so that students can track their progress on the graph inside of the book. There are three levels plus a Basic Reader for additional practice. See the Wilson WEBSITE for more information.
Whole Phonics Books are available in three levels currently with two more levels planned. Level 1 focuses on short vowel sounds while Level 2 adds consonant digraphs. Level Three adds ing, ink, ang, ang, consontant blends and the suffixes -ed, -ing, -ed, -s, -es. Levels 4 and 5 are in production. Books include colorful illustrations and may be purchased individually or in sets. Find more information about their list of decodable readers HERE. To support the content and knowledge building aspect of reading, Whole Phonics has linked its decodable readers with ReadWorks, a free resource for educators and parents that provides short reading passages along with vocabulary activities and comprehension questions, on a variety of topics including STEM, social studies, poetry and literary fiction. Whole Phonics provides links to the ReadWorks resources related to the subject matter in their decodable books. The ReadWorks resources are NOT decodable, but they include a recording of each reading passage to support struggling readers. Read about the combined Whole Phonics and ReadWorks scope and sequence HERE. To sign up for ReadWorks and learn more about what they offer, go to their website at https://www.readworks.org/.
Word Travel Press
The HOT ROD Series (Higher Order Thinking through the Reading of Decodables) available on this website includes decodable books that are designed to be of interest to older readers on subjects like Greek Mythology and non-fiction topics. More complex concepts are possible because of a strategy called Pair and Share reading which pairs developing readers with more proficient ones. Questions to stimulate Higher Order Thinking appear at the end of each book and supplementary materials for each book include a full range of 24 activities based on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy moving from simple to complex and concrete to abstract thinking. The breadth of these activities make these books appropriate for a wide range of ability levels. Additional supports found in the supplementary materials include activities for phonological awareness, vocabulary, morphology, cognitive flexibility, and written language. The Scope and Sequence covers 7 levels. The first book will be available in the Fall of 2022. Download a Free Preview of Book 1. Find out more at www.wordtravelpress.com.
Superkids Reading Program is designed for grades K-2. Stories center on 14 “superkids.” Books must be purchased in sets, kits, or reading bundles. See their online STORE for pricing and their WEBSITE for details about the program.