Reading Teacher

How to Choose the Best Decodable Readers for Your Students

How to Choose the Best Decodable Readers for Your Students

In a classroom of varied reading levels, decodable readers are the smartest choice any educator can make. Yet in light of the “literacy crisis” recently coined by the New York Times, it can be difficult to decide when - and how - to introduce decodables to young readers. This crisis did not start with the pandemic, with experts pointing to a long-term shortage of teachers trained in phonics and phonemic awareness. Noting these early literacy foundations, we list the qualities of the best decodable readers that reinforce the science of reading - and the value of students seeing themselves in their own reading material.


  • Decodable readers reinforce the science of reading.

Decoding is an essential skill for early reading comprehension. In a classroom guided by the science of reading, decodable readers increase exposure to the pillars of decoding: phonics (letter-sound combinations), the blending of words and sounds, and those irregular words known as tricky words! Written in a systematic and structured fashion, decodable books empower students to practice the skills taught during explicit phonics instruction. While this instructional lingo may not sound as exciting, these flagships of early literacy instruction are crucial for reading teachers to understand. By implementing decodables early and regularly in a classroom, students have a better chance of reaching automaticity: the point at which a child learns to decode, increasing access to reading material guided by their personal interests as opposed to reading challenge areas.


  • Decodables can - and should - reflect a range of identities and cultures.

For students to become lifelong readers, they must first learn to decode and comprehend what they’re reading. From there, the joy of reading is found in reading material that reflects their curiosities, identities, and the world around them. The Read in Color program is committed to this belief, considering that less than 25% of children’s books depict non-white characters. In addition to instilling foundational phonics skills, instructors and parents also have an opportunity to expose students to diverse narratives with the thoughtful introduction of decodable readers and other guided reading level texts.


  • Decodables are FUN!

At Reading Teacher, we understand the relationship between learning to read and fun. While learning to decode texts takes time, patience, and dedication, it also represents an opportunity for educators and parents to connect with their students - and foster more opportunities for relationship-building and play in the classroom and beyond. When introducing decodable readers into a child’s daily reading routine, consider taking a trip to the local library, where librarians work tirelessly as literacy first-responders and provide equitable solutions to long-standing reading gaps. Emphasize engaging content - don’t shy away from silliness! - and when age-appropriate, implement writing lessons to make the texts more interesting while encouraging students to add their own creative twists.


Decodable readers are crucial tools in an early literacy classroom. With these tips and the support of our science-backed program, your students will soar from elementary decoders to dedicated readers.



  • Decodable readers are essential in a growing toolkit to help reading teachers combat the effects of COVID-19- induced reading loss.
  • The best decodable readers reinforce skills learned during explicit phonics instruction, explore diverse stories and identities, and contain engaging content that encourages creative lessons in the classroom - and ultimately, a lifelong love for reading.

Start Teaching Reading for Free Now!

Access Level 1’s four interactive stories and the accompanying supplemental resources to teach elementary students how to read. No credit card is needed. Join the 42,635 teachers and students using our reading program.