You know I love decodables. One of my first blog posts was about why they are important and the difference between leveled and decodable readers. Not all decodables are created equal, and I don’t use the same ones for all my students. So today, we’re going to talk about my favorite decodables for specific purposes. I’m talking favorite for beginning readers, favorite for older struggling readers, and more. Welcome to my very first decodable awards! There are no prizes, unless you count literate children as a prize. And I so do.
A Note on Decodable Readers
I hear lots of people arguing that decodable readers must follow your scope and sequence, or they aren’t actually decodable. While this is true, kind of, I also find some people make this out to be a much bigger problem than it really is. Most decodables I’ve come across follow a basic progression—digraphs, then blends, then long vowel sounds, etc. While there are always differences, very few times have I been shocked at a skill’s placement (or sometimes the exclusion of certain skills).
While there are some differences, the sets I’ve used have worked despite not sharing the same scope and sequence. Like most things in teaching, we just have to be careful that we preview the texts before we give them to our students. If there’s a word or two you haven’t gotten to teaching the rules for, just give them that word.
There have been very few instances where I couldn’t use a text because it was so far off from where I was teaching. One set I use teaches Gentle Cindy much later than I do, so there are a lot of multisyllabic words in the texts. I know now not to use the Gentle Cindy texts from that set of decodables. It doesn’t make either one of our sequences right or wrong—it just makes the texts not right for my students at that point.
Best Decodables for Beginning Readers
My favorite decodables for beginning readers are the Power Readers from Voyager Sopris. These books feel like a workbook and are made to be consumable—but I’ve been using them for a few years and they are still holding strong. I find their short vowel readers to be the best for those children who are just starting to read. They feel like a real story, and the children are so excited to be reading a book.
Before the story begins, there is a page that has words and phrases in isolation. It’s a great way to prep students for reading. Out of all the beginning readers I’ve used, they feel like the ones that have the best starting point. I really appreciate that the sentences aren’t patterned so children cannot guess the words. Things get a little weird when they get to blends, but I still think they are great texts. (They do end blends before beginning blends.)>
Best Decodables for Sending Home
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know how much I love the decodables by Emily Gibbons from The Literacy Nest. I could name hers the “Best Decodables” for so many different reasons. For me, the power in her decodables is that you can print them. That means you can make copies for your small group, a copy for them to have in class, and a copy for children to take home.
These are the texts I use the most because they are so well-written and I can have copies for everyone. I could talk about her texts for days, mainly because I use them. so. much. If you are trying to have consistency between home and school, having the same copies of texts at both places is a great way to do so.
Best Decodables for Struggling Older Readers
When older children struggle, they are much more aware than the younger students. Some of the decodables you come across really aren’t suited for older kids. They can make already-defeated children feel even smaller. It’s tough for older children to have to read books that were designed for kids several years younger than them. All children deserve to have engaging books that they are able to read.
That’s why I love PhonicBooks*. PhonicBooks has series for older children that are just really flipping cool. They don’t feel like “baby” books. For starters, the children in the stories are older than five. AND there is diversity. I really think that PhonicBooks readers can help eliminate some of that self-consciousness our struggling readers have as they get older. When children aren’t worrying about others seeing what they are reading, we can remove a lot of boundaries that are in place.
Best Decodables for Word and Sentence Level
When I began my journey into decodables, I was surprised to find there weren’t many sets of decodables that went from the word, to the sentence, to the connected text level. So I made my own word lists and sentences for all the phonics skills I was teaching.
With these word lists and sentences, you choose a targeted skill to practice. There are 10 words plus 5 sentences for each skill. I use these before moving into a connected text. This gives children time to practice the target skill in isolation before trying to attack multiple paragraphs. Is it tacky to name my product as “best” of something? Most likely. Will I be doing it anyway? Most assuredly.<
Best Decodables for Parents to Buy At Home
I picked up a set of BOB books from my local Ollie’s for dirt cheap. BOB books have been around for decades, and I had always heard about them, but had never actually taken a look at them. There are so many different books aimed for parents of beginning readers that are poorly written and are not decodable at all (Currently side-eyeing that book of Level A Scholastic Readers I bought.). I feel for parents that are struggling to figure out why their child can’t read this “easy” or “instructional” text. The truth is, it isn’t that their children are failing, but that the text doesn’t include many skills they’ve been taught.
BOB books are different. They are truly decodable for young readers. While I didn’t see a scope and sequence, I think that is okay for parents at home. They don’t need to have a detailed scope and sequence. What parents really need is books in their kiddos’ hands that they can actually read. I highly recommend them to any parent! I gave a parent a set of BOB books for their child and they came to me so excited because their child COULD actually read books. They just had to be the appropriate books.
I hope this blog post has broadened your horizons around decodables somewhat. I want to remind you that just because it doesn’t follow your exact scope and sequence, a decodable shouldn’t be off the table. I’ve used a variety of texts for a variety of purposes. Keep your children and your end goal in mind, and feel free to explore all the wonderful options that are out there for decodable books. Am I missing any best of? What would you like to see included in the next “award ceremony?”
*I should note that I have done some blogging for PhonicBooks, but they are not paying me to share my opinion here. They didn’t ask me to write this or coerce me in any way. I will never sacrifice quality for the sake of sponsorship. You can be SURE of that!