Decodable Books / Decodable Readers for Beginners

Decodable books - What makes decodable readers different than other books?

What is a decodable book?

A decodable book or passage is different from other books in that it follows a progression of learned phonics concepts. Decodable books are used by beginning readers to well-establish learned reading concepts, and sequentially build one phonics concept upon another.

For instance, a child who has only learned words with short letter "a" would practice a book having words like "cat", "sat", or "mat". She would not yet be expected to read books containing words with other concepts like digraphs ("she" "chat", or "what"). Only after the concept of digraphs has been specifically taught would a book with those words be introduced.

There is another term for beginning readers used by many schools called "leveled books", and these are books based on a standard leveling system ordering books by grade, and level of difficulty. This can be based upon vocabulary, subject matter, sentence structure, etc.

A child might encounter many words in a "leveled" book that could contain phonetic concepts that have not been explicitly taught yet.

There has long been a question of whether or not children should learn to read from "leveled" books, or "decodable" books.

Although it is not harmful to have leveled books in your library for engagement, and read alouds, decodable books should definitely be in your plan if you are teaching a beginner. 

The truth is - readers who understand how to decode words using phonics concepts become better, stronger readers. Some children can move forward quickly into leveled readers for more engaging and fun material, but ALL kids need to solidify phonemic awareness, and phonics skills to advance in a well-grounded way.

I like to think of it like this. Some kids catch on to math very quickly, and can even understand broad algebraic concepts at a young age. But - that doesn't mean they don't need to understand the basic building blocks of math in order to progress further. At some point, you always need to understand the basics of what you are learning in order to advance. 

And so, decodables are a great way to go when teaching your child to read. In addition to using decodables, teachers and parents should read aloud higher level books of all kinds to develop and foster a rich vocabulary and a love for reading.

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Would you like to try some free decodable sentence activities?

I have a few decodable sentence printables for the short vowel sounds that you can have for FREE! These will include a few additional words in the sentences from Fry's first 100 high frequency words. Those words are listed on each worksheet.  >> CLICK HERE << to get those, or on the picture below:

Get free decodable sentences


How do you read decodable books?

As mentioned above, these books go in a certain order of phonics concepts. So - you would choose books that only cover concepts that your child has already learned, in progression. Or, you can use the books as a guide to know what to teach next.

Many reading curriculums have their own set of decodable books, like Reading Horizons, or All About Reading. And you can find lots of other sets of decodables out there too - for any age. (See list below).

Are Bob books decodable?

They are! Bob books are very popular, and are easy to purchase on Amazon. You can either purchase the entire set, or you can get just one set at a time.

I did take a quick look at the reviews for Bob books on Amazon. I read any bad reviews I saw, and the thing I see repeated is that some find these books "boring" for kids to read.

Perhaps these reviewers might be missing the point of the books. The point is not to entertain the student or enrich the vocabulary. That can be done with exciting read alouds, or audiobooks. These are the books the KIDS would be reading. And not by pictures or word clues, but in order to learn to DECODE words. They are tools for learning to read. 

Best decodable readers - What to look for..

The best decodable readers will be the ones that coincide with your phonics program. This way, as you go through a set of decodables, you'll be introducing new concepts as you go.

If you don't have a specific reading program, you can always purchase a set of decodable books, and teach your child according to the order of the books.

You may want to consider the type of illustrations in the set of books you purchase. You don't necessarily want your reader to guess words based on pictures, but you do want the illustrations to coincidence and "spice up" the text.

Are decodable readers boring (or controversial?)

They can be controversial to some - because some reading programs only call for using leveled readers alongside a phonics program, instead of using any kind of decodable books. Teachers who prefer leveled books say that that "Cat sat on mat" or similar is way too boring.

On the other hand, many reading teachers feel like a beginning reader needs that "decodable" practice alongside phonics instruction for reinforcement. I have found that reading specialists and those who work explicitly with reading instructions by far prefer decodables for teaching young readers.

Simply handing a child a book at their general perceived level and expecting them to be able to read it because of context and picture clues is just not sufficient. The leveled books themselves aren't necessarily bad, but they may include words that could frustrate a child and cause him to end up "pretending" to read, which can cause problems later.

As to whether or not they are boring - that's up to the teacher! A good teacher can always make learning fun. These are not books with a plot that will have you hanging on. They are books with a purpose - to teach reading. And, there are great decodable choices out there that have beautiful illustrations that don't "give the text away" and do a great job of spicing up the material.

Really, there should be decodables for reading practice in your child's library at the very earliest stages of reading, but also more advanced books for kids to look through on thier own time, (and for more mature readers to read aloud to them). 

Did you know that Reading Horizons has a wonderful set of decodables that you can purchase separately from their curriculum?

As an affiliate for Reading Horizons, I was given a set to look over and review for you. I received them well-packaged in the mail. 

The Kindergarten box set has 20 decodable books. They each focus on a different phonetic skill, with a few high frequency words. They are meant to correspond with the Reading Horizons curriculum, but could also be used tailored to your own preferred curriculum.

These are actually engaging little books! Cute illustrations are on each page, and another bonus is the short list of comprehension questions at the back, as well as a place to focus on specific skill words, high frequency words, and challenge words. Click here if you'd like to check these out on the Reading Horizson website!

I also received the Grades 1-3 decodable readers. These include 74 color-illustrated books that continue to develop phonetic concepts, from digraphs to r controlled words, to multisyllabic words and vowel team practice.

I like that some of these little books are fiction, and some are non-fiction. Comprehension questions at the back and the addition of high frequency words in each book help to encourage fluency. I also like that each book includes specific Lexile codes so you can look up and find additional reading. Click here if you would like more info on these.

Decodable Book Sets to Consider for Your Library

     Decodables for younger students

Reading Horizons Discovery Kindergarten

More info here. These books follow the Reading Horizons Discovery curriculum, but can also be purchased separately (a great deal!) I was sent by the company a set of these books to review, and you can see my thoughts on the Reading Horizons decodables above.

Reading Horizons Discovery 1-3

More info here. The next level up from the Kindergarten set, these are a great option for your decodable library. These are also included in my review above.

Dog on a Log Books

More info here for the prereaders, and here for the first step of decodables (there are more in the series to check as well.)

BOB books

More info here. (Individual sets can be purchased as well).

Charge Mommy series

More info here.

Express Readers

More info here.


More info here.

Alphabet Series Readers

More info here. (This is a link to the first volume only.)

Dr. Maggie's

More info here. (3 volumes available)

Primary Phonics Readers

More info here.

I See Sam books

More info here.

Geode Books

More info here.

Flyleaf Emergent

More info here.

Half Pint Readers

More info here.

High Noon Dandelion

More info here.

Junior Learning

More info here.

Miss Rhonda's Readers

More info here.

Sonday System Books

More info here. (Note - you don't have to buy the whole system - the pieces can be purchased individually toward the bottom of the page, including the readers.)

Voyager Supris

More info here.

Decodables for older students

Voyager Supris Supercharged

More info here.

Simple Words Decodable Chapter Books

More info here.

High Noon books

More info here

     Any Age Decodable Books

Reading Horizons Decodables

See my review below, and get more info here.


More info here.

Go Phonics

More info here.

S.P.I.R.E. Readers

More info here.


More info here.


More info here.


More info here

TAP Library (Teens & Adults)

More info here

Should you build a decodable library for your class or home?

Absolutely. You should have decodable books if you are teaching beginning reader(s), whether in a classroom setting, or in your home.

I hope this has helped you make a decision about decodables for your student. Be sure to let me know what your thoughts are in the comments below.









9 Replies to “Decodable Books / Decodable Readers for Beginners”

  1. I am a Reading Specialist that works for a school district in Texas that began using Reading Horizons last year. I have found that that the student love the decodable books provided with the program. The stories are interesting and it allows the students to transfer the phonics skills taught in the lesson to connected text. I also create word sorts to that the students can search and sort words in the text based on a specific phonics skill. Students really like that activity!

  2. I wouldn’t be able to come up with a better way to describe the importance of decodable text and how you don’t have to avoid leveled readers while teaching a child how to read. Leveled readers can be used for read aloud activities to promote vocabulary and story structure. This can be done while using the decodable text to practice the systematically structured phonetic instruction. Well said, Amy, well said!

  3. This series looks great! At 5, my daughter is just being introduced to beginner phonics. Our next step will be some decodable books!

  4. Have you tried the Miss Moss series? We just found it and got the first book. My daughter thinks the pictures are cute. It has been good for her, but she has been taught through the VCE syllable so she is a little more advanced. She is mostly independent with it so far.

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