Beginner reading books should help kids learn to read in a gentle, step-by-step way. There are high quality beginner reading books and poorly designed beginner reading books. What ultimately should a parent or educator look for in these early readers?
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What are high quality beginner reading books?
High quality beginner reading books should encourage sound-by-sound reading. When kids are encouraged to crack the phonics code, they build a strong decoding foundation. A strong decoding foundation allows kids to transfer their skills to other books they haven’t seen yet. They aren’t relying on memorization or guesswork. Instead, with high quality early readers, kids can read sound-by-sound.
High quality early readers start off simply with restricted phonics sounds. As the series progresses, high quality beginner reading books gradually introduce more phonics sounds.
High quality beginning reader books:
- Start off with cvc (consonant-vowel-consonant) words like cat, met, him, hop, and cup.
- Gradually introduce more phonics sounds. Each new series introduces a new phonics sound. For example, after cvc words, kids might read a /sh/ book with sentences like, “Mel was on a big ship. He got a fish.”
- Do NOT encourage guessing. There are no easily guessable phrases.
- The pictures do NOT cue the student. Pictures are there for amusement only, not as a reading crutch.
- Do NOT encourage memorization. There are no repetitive phrases like, “Sam ran down the hill. Sam ran down the stairs. Sam ran down the hall.”
- Kids can read the words sound-by-sound.
What are poorly designed beginner reading books?
Poorly designed beginner reading books encourage kids to use the picture as a crutch. They also use repetitive phrases that allow children to guess at the words. These books do not build a strong decoding foundation.
Poorly designed beginner reading books erroneously send kids the message that reading is memorizing and guessing. Kids often struggle to learn to read with these kinds of early readers. Dyslexic kids in particular are at high risk of reading failure if they are given predictable text.
Poor quality beginning reader books:
- Encourage guessing.
- Are predictable. Phrases and sentences are repetitive so the child, without much thought, mindlessly repeats the words.
- Use pictures as an aid. Poorly designed books encourage kids to look at pictures to guess at the words.
- Are too advanced for the child. The student never gets the chance to incrementally improve.
List of high quality beginner reading books…
1) Reading Elephant
Reading Elephant 120+ printable beginner reading books are available in our shop.
Reading Elephant printable phonics books guide beginning and struggling readers through each of the most common phonics sounds. Each series introduces one phonics sound. This allows kids to gain ample practice with each phonics sound. In this way, kids can feel successful and confident as they learn to read.
Reading Elephant printable learn to read books…
- Start simple with cvc (consonant-vowel-consonant) words.
- Gradually introduce new phonics sounds. Each series introduces one new phonics sound. This allows kids to learn to read in a gentle step-by-step manner.
- Are NOT guessable. There is no repetitive language. The pictures do NOT cue the student. There is no need to provide these crutches. Our printable books encourage kids to decode words sound-by-sound.
- Are comprehensive. Many learn to read book series do not provide enough books per phonics sound. Our series is extensive and allows kids to gain fluency with each new phonics sound.
- Are decodable books. Beginning readers need decodable books to learn to read. Decodable books systematically introduce new sounds and allow kids to practice phonics word analysis.
- Gradually introduce sight words. Kids are not expected to just know all the sight words at once. Sight words are introduced in an incremental, methodical way.
- Allow kids to feel successful and confident as they learn to read.
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2) Primary Phonics
Primary phonics is a great phonics book series. These are my next favorite decodable book series, second only to Reading Elephant of course. Primary Phonics start off simple with cvc words and gradually add in long vowel sounds. However, I wish there were more of them. I recommend getting several phonics books series so your student enough books to practice with. These stories are very cute!
3) Flyleaf Publishing
Flyleaf Publishing decodable books guide kids through phonics sounds. They also severely limit sight words. They are sold as more “literary” decodable books. Their downside? They can be expensive. However, if you’re an educator you might be looking to develop a broad phonics books library. In that case, these books are a great addition to your collection!
4) Leap Frog
Leap Frog books can help kids learn to read common phonics sounds. You’ll probably need to supplement this series with some of the other series on this list. For many kids, there are not enough books per sound. However, the pictures are cute. The pages highlight sight words. This can help parents and educators identify when they need to help a child with sight word recognition. The books also highlight common phonics sounds that the child might need help with.
While I’ve used their books for beginning readers, I’m not familiar with some of their other products.
5) Bob Books Sets 1 & 2
Bob books sets 1 and 2 are very popular. Some may argue that the other sets are not decodable readers. Just be be sure that the books do not have predictable text. Also make sure that the pictures do not cue the student. Sets 1 & 2 are great for beginning readers. They also have cute, funny pictures.
Starfall books are a great addition to your phonics books library. Their short vowel books in particular are excellent. This book series can help your beginning reader learn to read consonant-vowel-consonant words. In addition, the pictures and stories are very cute.
7) Dr. Maggie’s
Dr. Maggie’s also has short vowel books. In addition, her books include some consonant digraph sounds. The pictures are bright and colorful. The stories can help beginners learn to read sound-by-sound. This is not the most extensive series. However, it’s still a great addition to your phonics books library.
8) Reading A-Z
Many schools use reading a-z for decodable books and leveled readers. They offer a yearly subscription to access their online library.
Oftentimes educators need multiple beginner reading books. You can fill up your library to help your child or student learn to read.