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Decodable Books: Why They’re Important

all about reading decodable book featured graphic

Some children seem to learn to read by osmosis; they just “get it” without having to learn the phonics code that makes sense of reading.

But learning to read isn’t always that simple.

Many children require a systematic approach to teaching reading that allows them to learn incrementally. And as children learn to read, decodable books become an important part of the learning process.

But now you’re probably asking a pretty important question.

What Are Decodable Books?

Decodable books are books that contain only phonetic code that the student has already learned.

For example, a child at the beginning stages of reading who has learned the short vowel sounds could decode simple words like hat, bed, and pig, but would not be able to decode words like see and owl. A student at a higher reading level who has learned multi-letter phonograms like AI and OA would be able to decode more complex words like snail and goat.

When searching for books for your beginning reader, be aware that the term decodable books is often used incorrectly, particularly when it refers to texts in which only about half the words are decodable. Being able to decode only half the words in a book is very frustrating for most students, and does not support good reading habits. Truly decodable books—like the ones in the All About Reading program—are 100% decodable so the student is able to read every word.

Open decodable book from All About Reading

Why Are Decodable Books So Important for Beginning Readers?

When a child is expected to read books that are not decodable, he often becomes frustrated and starts guessing at words, thereby developing poor reading strategies. In the process, the child loses the direct connection between the phonics and word analysis skills he is learning and the actual text he is expected to read.

On the other hand, when a child reads a fully decodable book, he can use his knowledge of phonics and his word analysis skills to decode unfamiliar words. Because the child can figure out every word in the book, he feels successful, which in turn helps him build fluency and develop good reading strategies.

What’s Unique about the AAR Decodable Books?

Besides being 100% decodable, the stories in our reading program are designed to help students experience a real feeling of success and accomplishment. And that success sets in motion an upward spiral that results in even greater motivation to read.

Here are the features that make our decodable books so special:

  1. The stories are engaging and entertaining.

    It’s a challenge to write engaging stories with controlled word lists, but the results are worth the effort! Each book contains a wide variety of story lines, subjects, and themes that capture children’s interest and give them lots of practice in reading words they have learned. Each short story helps kids expand both their minds and their reading ability.
  2. Our stories use natural language.

    Most decodable books use stilted, unnatural language, mainly because authors find it difficult to create stories with controlled word lists. But those awkward sentences are hard for kids to read and comprehend, and may even turn some kids off of reading.

    Kids shouldn’t have to suffer through the typical stilted language of most decodable text. If we wouldn’t want to read it, we shouldn’t expect kids to! That’s why we take such great care in crafting each story to ensure that it flows as easily and naturally as possible. Kids are delighted when they read these stories, and they want to come back for more.

  3. The illustrations draw the child into the story.

    The right illustrations can go a long way toward enhancing a child’s motivation to read, and illustrations are an important part of our decodable books. Our illustrators create real personalities for each character so children can relate to them. Then they often add extra surprises and details to each scene for children to discover—and those discoveries delight the child and give him a sense of “owning” the story.

    Since the controlled word lists may limit what we can write, the illustrations may also be called upon to “fill in the blanks” of the story. However, it’s important to note that while the illustrations enhance the story, they never “give away” the words—that is, readers cannot guess the words by looking at the illustrations. It’s vital for the child to decode each word rather than rely on the illustrations for clues, so the drawings don’t enable the reader to “predict” the words on the page.

    Here’s an example of a Level 4 story from All About Reading.

    "Pigs in the Kitchen" download
  4. The text and pages are formatted very intentionally.

    Our books contain four specific formatting features that make a difference in your child’s reading experience:

    • In the early levels, the text has intentional line breaks to encourage natural phrasing.
      The pages are formatted to allow beginning readers to read more smoothly and comprehend the text more easily. You have probably heard a child read a sentence choppily, like this:

      The. . .ten. . .kids. . .thank. . .the. . .king. . .for. . .the. . .gifts.

      With the line breaks and natural phrasing we use in our books, the child is encouraged to read one phrase at a time, like this:

      The ten kids
      thank the king
      for the gifts.

    • Subtle underlines in our Level 1 books help children with tracking issues follow the words across the page.
      The underlining goes unnoticed by children who don’t need it, but it is invaluable for those who do need it.

    • The font used in Level 1 was customized to be simple and clear.
      For example, the p’s are easily distinguished from the b’s and the q’s, which is important for beginning readers and dyslexic students.

    • Finally, our books are printed on non-glare paper specially chosen to be easy on children’s eyes.
      Small details like these make a big difference in the experience of a beginning reader.

View more story samples from our Level 1-4 Readers.

Of course, students don’t read decodable books forever. But decodable books offer benefits that help beginning readers develop the skills and confidence they need to become strong readers. Soon enough, they’ll be able to read everything on the shelf!

The All About Reading program walks you through all the steps to help your child become a strong independent reader. The program is multisensory, motivating, and complete. And if you ever need a helping hand, we’re here for you! All About Reading Product Line

Have you used decodable stories with your students?

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Rachel Griffin

says:

How can I i buy a set

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You can find the readers available for purchase in our webstore, Rachel. If you go to each level page, you will see the heading “Individual Products”. If you click on that heading, you’ll find where you can purchase the Readers for each level separately from the Teacher’s Manuals and other items.

Please let me know if you need anything else.

Andrea Spradling

says:

Yes, I use decodable books!

Marilyn Fuqua

says:

This is great information and so needed to be understood by reading teachers . A question I have is how does the font distinguish the B’s, P’s, and Q’s; and what font was used? Is it used in the other levels as well?
Thank you for your work, I love using your curriculum.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Marilyn,
In All About Reading Level 1, we use a font that has the “fancy” a (with the “cap” on top) and a curved t, but not the fancy g or q. The Readers in Level 1 use a Karmina Sans Light, a “sans serif” font (one without the extra line or flourish at the bottom of a letter–right now I’m typing in a sans serif font.)

Then in Level 2, we transition to a serif font in the Readers but keep the size about the same as the size in Cobweb the Cat, the final Reader from Level 1. We continue using the simpler “sans serif” font on the word cards and fluency pages for when the student is first practicing the words, but use the “fancy” g and q at this point.

In Level 3, the size decreases a bit in the readers as it prepares the child for moving on to chapter books soon, and in Level 4 the print is similar to what is found in trade books.

We have a 5 Tricky Lowercase Letters blog post that includes free downloads for learning the differences in fonts for a, g, q, t, and y.

You can find sample stories from each Reader in each level on our Reading Samples page.

ARM

says:

LOVE YOUR DECODABLE BOOKS! I USE A DIFFERENT BRAND BUT YOURS ARE GREAT AND VERY INTERESTING!!!! SO NOW I HAVE NEW DECODABLE MATERIAL FOR THE KIDS AND ADULTS THAT I TEACH THE 44 SOUNDS TO. THANKS!!!

Karen

says:

Thank you so much for the free downloads with a daycare that helps people who can’t afford daycare I keep my price low to help people who make just a little to much to get help so I really appreciate any and all free down loads

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Karen. I’m very happy to hear that the downloads we offer here are helpful for the wonderful work you are doing!

lynne barrett

says:

My grandson is currently in AAR level 2. I get a kick out of watching his reactions to each story. He enjoys the humor within the stories and is so proud of himself when he finishes a story. It would be awesome if additional decodable books were available as birthday and Christmas gifts!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing your grandson’s enjoyment of the stories, Lynne!

Christi Rafer

says:

I’m using AAR with my second child and the readers are fabulous! I just wish there were additional readers of the same level to continue to build confidence. It is so hard to find really early readers. The ones at the library use sounds we’ve never encountered and large words even in the level 1. It would be great to have the option for more AAR stories especially in AAR Level 1.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great suggestion, Christi! I’ll pass it along!

In the meantime, we do keep a list of some possibilities for reinforcement during and after AAR 1. We don’t know of another set of readers that will correlate exactly, so you may have to help with some words.

– Bob books, Sets 1 & 2

– DK Flip the Page Rhyme and Read books: Pat the Cat, Jen the Hen, Mig the Pig, Tog the Dog, and Zug the Bug.

– Usborne Very First Readers or My First Library – you read part and your child reads part. The first 10 books go with AAR 1. Others have more advanced phonograms

Sonlight’s Grade K Fun Tales (27 books in one box, using short vowel words), and 1st Grade I Can Read It Book 1 (the first part)

– Christian Liberty Press readers, (It Is Fun to Read, Pals and Pets)

American Language Series books. The first two titles, “Fun in the Sun” and “Scamp and Tramp”, go pretty well with AAR 1 and the second two titles, “Soft and White” and “At the Farm”, would go along with AAR 2., while the last two, “On the Trail” and “Sounds of the Sea”, go along with AAR 3.

– Books by Nora Gaydos (bright pictures with stories, these come in packs of 10–see the Level 1 sets)

– Dash into Reading (expensive, but see if you can find a coupon or if your library has them)

– I See Sam Readers (also available online for free)

– I Like to Read books: I see a Cat, See Me Dig, Big Cat, Happy Cat, I Will Try, Pig Has a Plan
Cat Traps (Step-Into-Reading, Step 1)

Miss Rhonda Readers Set 1 (these do include some two-syllable words and unfamiliar phonograms occasionally)

Meg and Greg books (these books have text for the parent to read and then text for the student. They follow AAR 1 fairly well but do include two-syllable words like “rocket” that students won’t learn until level 2, so you would have to help your children with some words.)

Primary Phonics (sets 1 and 1A go pretty well with AAR 1)

Reading Teacher

– Fun Phonics–the first 3 books

Progressive Phonics – Free phonics books that can be read online or downloaded and used right away.

We Read Phonics Big pictures with one sentence. Example of level 1 is “Bugs on the Bus”. Example of level 2 is “Which Pet is Best”.

We Both Read books. On the left hand pages there is text for the parent to read and on the right is text for the kids to read.

– Flyleaf Publishing Emergent Readers

– The Core Knowledge LA Kindergarten readers are usually decodable after AAR/AAS level 1. The readers start at unit 6. Unit 10 (the last Kindergarten unit) has some silent e words, which wouldn’t be accessible yet to students doing AAR. They’re free to download:
https://www.engageny.org/resource/kindergarten-skills-unit-6-reader-kit
https://www.engageny.org/resource/kindergarten-skills-unit-7-reader-seth
https://www.engageny.org/resource/kindergarten-skills-unit-8-reader-sam
https://www.engageny.org/resource/kindergarten-skills-unit-9-reader-zach-and-ann

– A Pig, A Fox, and a Box, and A Pig, A Fox and Stinky Socks. Funny, but do have a few words not taught in AAR 1. Some moms have found them accessible though.

– Julia Donaldson’s Songbirds collection, Stage 1. Stage 2 might work for some kids but does have some things that AAR doesn’t introduce until later.

– S.P.I.R.E. Decodable Readers. Level 1 uses short vowels and these phonograms: a, i, o, u, e, sh, ch, th, wh, -ng, -nk. You would want to introduce how to read the wh phonogram. Some of the Level 2 readers would work too, and then others would be better with AAR 2. Those include: ff, ll, ss, al, wa, qu, ck, tch, and vowel-consonant E words.

Some that might specifically appeal to older AAR 1 students:

– Merrill Readers (meant for remediation, so the covers might appeal to older students as well.)

Simple Words Books: Decodable chapter books for middle elementary and older students.

Literacy Nest has some matching Literature Guides–see this page for information.

Dog on a Log books: Pup books and step 1-4 books go with Level 1. Chapter style may appeal to older students

Shane

says:

That would be great to have some extra decodable readers at the same levels so they can have books that aren’t “school” books to read on their own as well. I understand though that word options are limited to be fully decodable.

Steph

says:

We love the readers! They have helped my kids gain confidence with reading!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It’s wonderful that the readers have helped your kids with confidence in reading, Steph!

Katharine Gindin

says:

I love the attention to formatting.

Kristen

says:

We loooove the readers! They are well worn at our house and both of my kids have read the stories over and over.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kristen,
Wore out books make me both happy and a little sad. Sad that the book is worn but so happy that it was worn through love and use!

Becky

says:

Looking forward to starting this program soon!

Mrs. Tina

says:

I just started using these decodable books with two students, a first grader and a fifth grader. Both are at the sounding out phase, with no word transference or recognition from page to page. The stories are short enough to maintain their attention and the illustrations are drawn so that my 5th grader doesn’t feel they are babyish.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing this, Mrs. Tina. Our illustrators worked hard to make the pictures appealing to all ages, and it’s wonderful hearing they were successful!

Kristin

says:

I use decodable readers in small groups. It’s an great way to differentiate for all the different levels of readers I have in my class.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great use of decodable readers, Kristin!

EHarding728

says:

We’ve been using All About Spelling with our 4-year-old and she is so excited to learn! We recently finished “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” so I’ve been looking for books that she would be able to read and be excited to read. Since we’ve enjoyed AAS, I’m sure we’d be very impressed with the AAR curriculum! It is on our “curriculum wish list.” :-)

Jen

says:

My son LOVES to read his decodable readers from AAR! Even with the simplest stories in the first book, he was cracking up at the silly storyline! And he loves the independence when he is able to read it on his own.

Lou Ann

says:

Hope to try this program soon.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Do you have any questions about the program, Lou Ann? I’m happy to help with placement or anything else.

Brenda

says:

We’ve just started with some all about reading lessons and agree that decodable books are the absolute way to go!! It boots the confidence and makes your child WANT to push forward. The smiles when they can decode words is priceless :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

So true, Brenda! I love those, “I read it!” smiles!

Karina

says:

I have heard nothing but great things about this program 💕. I would sure love to be able to try it out.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you have heard positive things about All About Reading, Karina. Let me know if you have questions about the program, placement, or anything else.

Glenda D

says:

Thanks for sharing. This looks like such a wonderful program.

Lana

says:

Just started Level 1 Spelling with our son and loving it! I’m positive your program is the solution we’ve been looking for.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so pleased to hear that All About Spelling is working well for you and your son, Lana!

Dani

says:

I love the illustrations!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Dani!

Elaina

says:

We are on level 3 and you guys have done a great job making 100% decodable readers!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Oh, thank you, Elaina!

Casey

says:

Thank you for the extra effort you put into making the stories interesting!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Casey!

Aga

says:

Thank You!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Aga.

Brandi B Enns

says:

this is all such great information! this is our first year using all about reading and my son and I both look forward to the books!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was helpful information for you, Brandi!

Jonie B.

says:

The decodable books were so nice. I remember trying to get some books from the library and my child getting frustrated that she could not read them even though she was reading the stories in AAR just fine. Now she is on level 4 and has learned so many new concepts that reading is going amazing. I do watch out for words she does not know, because she will try to just mumble through them.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jonie,
Yes, it can be hard to find beginner books that don’t contain words with lots of difficult patterns and phonograms. It’s great that you are watchful to discourage your child from mumbling through words she is not familiar with. By the time she finishes level 4, she will have the skills to sound out even high school level words, but sometimes children have to be reminded to use those skills.

Esther

says:

Decodables were extremely helpful for my son while he was beginning to read. He was motivated more by the pictures and learning to tell the story and then was excited to learn the words. Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Esther. I’m pleased to hear that decodable stories were motivating for your son!

Susanna

says:

Thank you ! This was very informative and helpful.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Susanna!

Tiffany R

says:

Going forward I definitely need to make sure the books I’m getting my young reader are decodable books. Thanks for the helpful advice.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Tiffany.

Emily Morehead

says:

Thank you for all the free resources!