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How To Choose Decodable Readers for First Grade

How To Choose Decodable Readers for First Grade

To decode or not to decode: really, there is no question. To help rising first graders become successful and enthusiastic readers this summer, decodable readers are essential reading resources. Although “decodable text” might sound like yet another form of educational lingo, parents and educators can rest assured: decodable texts are actually a simple way to guide young learners toward independent reading.

choose decodable readers for first grade

What Is Decodable Text?

First, let’s revisit one of the fundamentals of early reading: contrary to past belief, most children learn how to read with a systematic and structured literacy curriculum that gradually stretches their reading capabilities with phonics and decoding lessons, spelling activities, and decodable text.


Decodable text, decodables, and decodable readers are all synonymous. These books are written with phonics patterns that students have already learned in phonics lessons, either at school or via online phonics programs like Reading Teacher. True to their name, decodable books facilitate the process of decoding: therefore, their simple stories feature the letter-sound patterns that students learned during explicit and systematic phonics lessons. As you read more decodables, you’ll find that they are organized by phonics patterns: for example, a first grade phonics book might focus explicitly on the short letter “a” sound, with words such as “bat,” “cat”, and “rat.” This focused approach allows young readers to gradually learn new phonetic patterns and develop a true feeling of reading success.

decodable readers for first grade

1st Grade Decodable Books

At Reading Teacher, we know that feeling successful is key for any first grader learning to read. For both parents and educators, there are numerous decodable readers for first grade that emphasize the dynamic duo of early reading: phonics and decoding. If you’re looking for a decodable reader for your first grader,  keep the following tips in mind when searching for the best decodable books.


  1. Focus on one-syllable words.

Most first grade classrooms focus on blending or breaking apart each sound of most one-syllable words. When choosing a decodable reader for first grade students, make sure to focus on one-syllable words before progressing to more challenging letter-sound combinations.


  1. Read words with long vowel sounds.

Reading teachers often say that long vowels “say their name.” In the world of phonics and decoding, long vowels can be tricky to understand due the sheer number of spellings for each long vowel sound. 1st grade decodable books that feature one of the 7 long vowel sounds - for example, the “oo” sound in the words “spoon,” “blue,” “screw,” and “you” - are an excellent choice.


  1. Make some noise about the silent “e.”

Once your first grader has conquered the simpler steps of decoding, it’s time to sound out more complex words, such as those that end with a silent “e.” The summer can be an excellent time to challenge rising first graders with more complicated and plot-driven decodable texts that stretch their reading skills and their imaginations.


Whether you’re a parent or teacher, our Reading Teacher program is an ideal resource for practicing these tips. Modeled after the I See Sam decodable book series, our program similarly highlights decodable words in each of its interactive stories. Each decodable word is clickable, which enables children to hear the words as they read the story. Wherever they are in their reading journey, we’re here to help your child progress from phonics and decoding lessons to lifelong, independent, and joy-filled reading.



  • Decoding is a foundational skill for first graders learning to read.
  • Decodable readers for first grade are essential resources for any first grade classroom or parent.
  • 1st grade decodable books should focus on developmentally-appropriate reading skills and phonics lessons: most notably, one-syllable words, long vowel sounds, and a few more complicated decoding and phonics patterns such as the silent “e.”

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