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Decoding Texts: Using The Best Decodable Books (2023)

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Decodable books are a great support in structured literacy instruction. Decodable readers provide specific reinforcement of the explicit phonics skills taught, but they do so in an authentic and engaging way for children. In this post, we’ll explore the importance of using decodable readers and compile a list of the best decodable texts out there.

Photograph of shelved library books with words "Decoding Texts: Using the Best Decodable Books."

Decodable Books – Why Use Them? πŸ‘©β€πŸ«

Phonics should be taught systematically and explicitly. Most experts are finally agreeing on this, and we now see the reading trend moving toward a Structured Literacy approach.

According to The Orton Gillingham Academy, the “approach is a direct, explicit, multisensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling.”

Decodable texts support this methodology. Sets of decodable books begin with basic and predictable patterns, with many focusing on simple sentences comprised of CVC words or words with digraphs and a few irregular heart words. The texts then progress with added skills, becoming more complex to include words with consonant blends, Long vowels, VCe words, vowel teams, and multisyllabic words.

We use decodable texts are also called controlled texts. They are designed so that kids can apply the knowledge they’ve been taught by decoding words and reading familiar high-frequency words they’ve been taught. They also ensure children spiral back to reinforce previously taught skills and rules.

Fluency and Comprehension

Decodable readers build fluency and enforce comprehension while building upon specific phonetic elements. It gives teachers an opportunity to teach research-based reading strategies, aligned with the body of research known as the Science of Reading (SOR).

Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, and decodable texts allow students to begin to experience success as they decode unknown words. They begin to find joy in reading independently and comprehending texts!

A collage of the front cover and two open pages of text from Frog book.
Heggerty Frog Series

Best Decodable Readers List πŸ“š

Below are the options available for decodable readers. Many publishers are now seeing the benefits and are writing and publishing their own. The list will continue growing, so keep checking back for updates!

A collage of the front cover and two pages of text from IMSE Decodable.
IMSE Decodable Reader (From Set 2)

IMSE Decodable Readers

I love these decodable texts, and I use them almost every day with my students. There are three sets with various levels of complexity for an affordable price. They come in two versions: you can buy them as a downloadable file… but you better have your heavy-duty stapler ready! Or you can purchase pre-made books printed on cardstock in color.

If you purchase the pdf version, know that putting together these books requires lots of paper, ink, and time, especially if you’re making multiple copies for small group reading instruction. But these are great quality for the price. A bonus is that each book includes a list of comprehension questions to use after reading.

A collage of the front cover and two pages of text from Toucan book.
Heggerty Toucan Series

Heggerty

Frog Series (Grades K-1) & Toucan Series (Grades 2-4). These are bright, beautiful, and engaging books that are brand new in 2022.

If you’re a reading specialist or special education teacher, I would not suggest these books due to higher word count and text complexity. They’d work best for homeschooling or for classroom teachers working with students on or above grade level.

SPIRE Decodables

Another great set of decodable readers, with over 120 titles available. These books are simple with black and white pictures, but clearly focus on phonetic concepts within the storyline.

Collage of a cover and open book called "The Fish Wish."

Raz-Plus Phonics Lessons & Decodable Texts

A yearly subscription is required, but with that is included decodable books for grades K-2 and decodable passages for grades 3-5. You can use these resources digitally or print the books and assemble them.

High Noon

These sets are high-interest books that come in both fiction and non-fiction. In addition, to beginner sound-it-out books, they also offer phonics-based chapter books focusing on various higher-level phonetic skills.

Flyleaf

I do not have paper copies of these decodable books, but I have used their free online resources over the past year or so. They’re awesome!

The texts are designed for pre-k through 3rd grade, and their website states that they “provide beginning and struggling readers with abundant opportunities to transfer their newly acquired phonics knowledge to meaningful, engaging, and complex narratives, informational texts, and poetry.”

Geodes

These are beautifully done, high-interest books with rich themes in history and the arts. Kids build extensive background knowledge while reading high-interest decodable books with beautiful illustrations.

Collage of a cover and open decodable book called "Born to Fly"

The best part about Geodes is the Book Notes that are provided with every book, providing guidance and teaching tips to make instruction extra effective.

Bob Books

An oldie, but a goodie! Parents love these affordable books, and many public libraries carry them too!

Charge Into Reading Book Set

These newly published books are the perfect addition to your decodable book collection. They reinforce specific phonics skills using engaging storylines and bright illustrations.

Bonus: Each book includes multiple pages of sound-specific activities that reinforce phonological awareness and phonics skills. My students love getting to the end of the books just so they can practice these skills in a fun way.

Photo college showing the inside of a decodable book focused on magic E with long O words.

FREE Decodables

If you’re looking for totally free options, visit this post that compiles a list of hundreds of FREE decodable texts! It’s the ultimate list with links to over 14 different websites sharing decodable resources for FREE!

Tips & Info

πŸ‘‰ Many sets of decodable readers only include 1-2 books per phonics skill. Because kids often need practice with more than 1-2 books per skill before moving on, a compilation of various sets from different publishers is usually necessary. Repeated opportunities within decodable texts are necessary for students to achieve success, especially those with reading disabilities.

The University of Florida Literacy Institute (UFLI) has created a helpful document that takes each phonics skill and lists the decodable books that match. It’s great to use when looking at which decodable readers to use or which ones to purchase for the needs of your students.

πŸ‘‰ Many decodable books are now available on TPT! Just be careful – “SOR” and “OG” have become hot buzzwords. Some sellers do not understand the theory behind these approaches and thus their products may not reflect consistently aligned resources. Read reviews and see what levels of training the sellers have before purchasing!

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Photograph of shelved library books and decodable books with text "Decoding Texts."

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10 Comments

  1. Hi Katie,

    Firstly, I’d like to express my gratitude for this comprehensive post on decodable readers. As a mother of two young children, I’ve been on the lookout for resources that can support their reading journey, and this article has been a goldmine!

    I’ve always believed in the importance of phonics in early reading instruction, and it’s reassuring to see that experts are now leaning towards a Structured Literacy approach. The way you’ve explained the progression of decodable texts, starting from simple CVC words and gradually moving to more complex patterns, makes so much sense. It’s like building a strong foundation before constructing the entire building.

    I’ve come across Bob Books in the past, and my kids absolutely love them. But I’m thrilled to discover other options like the Heggerty Frog Series and the IMSE Decodable Readers. The fact that some of these books come with comprehension questions is a bonus, as it not only helps in reinforcing phonics but also aids in understanding the context.

    The tip about ensuring repeated opportunities within decodable texts for kids, especially those with reading disabilities, resonated with me. My younger one struggles a bit more than his elder sibling, so I’ll definitely keep this in mind while choosing books for him.

    Lastly, the mention of FREE decodables is a lifesaver for parents like me who are always on a budget. I’ll be sure to check out the list you’ve compiled.

    Thank you once again for this invaluable resource. I’m excited to dive into some of these recommendations and watch my children flourish in their reading journey!

    Warm regards,
    Amy πŸ“šβ€οΈ

    1. Hi Amy,
      Thank you so much for your kind feedback. We are so glad you found the information and resources in this post helpful. Your comment really made our day!
      -Katie and Laura

  2. Just wondering if you have heard of the Little Learners Love Literacy decodable books – fiction and non-fiction. The Reading League sell these books which children love to read with words they can read.

    1. Hi Maureen,
      Thanks so much for sharing this resource. There are so many great ones being published. We will definitely have to check them out!
      Katie & Laura

  3. Thanks for this! I had not heard about the IMSE books before. They look good! I’ll take a look. By the way, do you know if they are only available as ebooks? The process of putting the books together seems long πŸ™‚

    1. Laura,
      We are so glad you came across the IMSE books. They’re awesome! IMSE now sells their decodable books assembled. I am not sure of the quality, though. You would have to inquire with IMSE to find out!
      Katie and Laura

  4. Also check out Whole Phonics, Phonic Books, and Meg and Greg books. Lots of great decodables out there!

  5. Are you open to reviewing more decodable books? Could we send you ours? Please let me know πŸ™‚ we’d love to send you a copy!
    Best,
    Elise

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