Decodable books are designed to be used alongside an explicit, systematic, synthetic phonics teaching programme, which is one part of a Structured Literacy approach or and Evidence Based Approach to Literacy that follows the Science of Reading. They allow for the practice of a grapheme-phoneme (letter to sound) correspondence that a learner has already been explicitly taught. As such, they allow both our beginner and our catch-up readers to experience success with reading and scaffold their learning practice.

These books are carefully designed to introduce each grapheme-phoneme representation in a sequential and cumulative way, so that a child will never be introduced to patterns that they have not been taught. This means that children do not ever have to resort to unhelpful cueing strategies, such as looking at the pictures or thinking about the meaning and guessing words, which we know are the strategies that poor readers use. Instead these books reinforce the decoding strategy that children need to master to learn to read.

Most decodable books contain some high frequency, irregular words. These are introduced only a few at a time both to make the story flow and to begin the process of teaching these words.

Good decodable books will have an explanation of the grapheme-phoneme correspondence or spelling concept which is the focus of the book. They may have a list of any high frequency, irregular words being used and a list of further words matching the concept being taught, which is useful for practice at both decoding and encoding. In addition, they usually have some helpful questions for discussion with the child and often have some games in the back that you can photocopy and use for further practice of the concept being taught. Many books also have a handy list of the meaning of any more advanced vocabulary contained within the book.

Most decodable book ranges now come with a teacher’s manual and many now have associated games and other resources that can also be purchased.

Decodable books often come under fire from adults for being very boring due the simplistic nature of the vocabulary used. However, if you ask the kids they don’t find them boring at all – they just love the fact that you have given them a book that they can successfully read.

Whilst we are using decodable books to teach children specific grapheme-phoneme correspondence and facilitate orthographic mapping, we also need to continue building their vocabulary. Thus, it is important to keep reading a wide variety of more complex books to children to expose them to a larger variety of words than they will be accessing through their reading practice.


This excellent article on decodable texts, from Australian website Five From Five, covers more detail than our short summary above and includes a comparison of decodable and predictable texts, as well as some suggestions on what to look for when purchasing decodable texts.

This great video from Alison Clarke of Spelfabet entitled What’s wrong with predictable or repetitive texts gives a good overview of the problems of using predictable texts with our younger and struggling readers and the benefits of a decodable text in reinforcing good habits.

This series of videos by Laura Stewart from The Reading League has a very useful review of the Science of Reading, including some excellent visuals of how the brain changes as we learn to read, and also discusses the use of predictable texts and decodable readers.

How Decodable Books Support Phonics Instruction This discussion with Emily Gibbons of The Literacy Nest and Tami Reis-Frankfort, one of the authors of Phonic Books UK, covers the basics of why you would use decodable texts and some of the science behind them. It also delves into a great discussion of the Phonic Books UK series, how they fit together and how to use the workbooks.

This blog from Australian educator Jocelyn Seamer, discusses using decodable readers in the classroom environment and how to differentiate their use with children that find reading easy through to those with learning difficulties Using Decodable Texts to Meet Students Needs

This blog, Using Decodable Books with Older, Struggling Readers, contains good information and tips on using decodable books with older students.

An excellent article from the Nomanis Notes looks at the evidence behind the use of decodable texts and links to key research papers.  Nomanis Notes #4 Are Decodable Books Preferable to Predictable Books in Helping Children Learn to Read

When do you move children on from decodable text? Controlling the Text – the Dilemma of Decodable Text, from The Reading Ape blog covers this question in detail.


Phonic Books Series

Phonic Books come from the UK and comprise an extensive range of books for both beginner and catch-up learners. For younger learners they have the Dandelion launchers and Dandelion readers series. For older, catch-up readers they have a variety of books designed to appeal to the older age group, including The Quest Series. They are available from Learning Matters and Smart Kids. They have accompanying workbooks and some also have games.

Little Learners Love Literacy (LLLL)

LLLL is an Australian company whose books are available in NZ from Liz Kane Literacy. Liz also stocks the Teacher’s manuals and a range of associated games and resources. LLLL also hasthe  Wiz Kids to their original Pip and Tim series. Wiz Kids goes through to LLLL stage 4 and a non-fiction series.

Agility With Sound Older Students

This is a range of decodable books developed in New Zealand by Betsy Sewell. They are available in kits with accompanying resources from Betsy’s website Agility With Sound. These books do not have pictures, which can be really useful for children that have developed a strong reliance on using picture cues.

Betsy also produces the Wordchain app which will soon be available as a Wordchain for the web. This will allow users to access Wordchain in a browser on most internet connected devices – iPads, Chromebooks, Windows and Mac desktops, phones etc. So a student could work on a Chromebook at school and then continue on an iPad or PC at home for example.

Sounds Write Decodeable books

The Sounds-Write Decodable Readers can be used to teach reading, spelling and writing. Children will love reading about the adventures of the characters in this series of illustrated readers.

They provide Fully decodable texts that can build on code knowledge, matching sounds to spellings and spellings to sounds

  • A carefully graded, step-by-step introduction of new sounds and spellings in each book
  • Practice in sound-letter matching, starting with matching one letter to one sound and building towards the introduction of all the main two-letter consonant and vowel spellings (digraphs), as well as adjacent consonants
  • Practice with segmenting and blending throughout each word.

These books can be purchased from Sound Foundations for Literacy in New Zealand

High Noon Sound Out Chapter Books

Now with refreshed designs, the Sound Out Kit includes 36 books and 6 workbooks: sets A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2, C-1, C-2 and a reproducible workbook for each set, all in a convenient storage case,

For years we have been hearing from special education teachers who have found the Sound Out Phonics-Based Chapter Books effective in teaching basic reading skills. Designed to follow a skill sequence that gives students multiple opportunities to practice specific phonics skills, your student will ‘graduate’ from set A-1 to set C-2 with the confidence that comes from a successful reading experience.

Books and workbooks can be bought separately or a kit. Purchase through Silvereye

Sunshine Phonics Decodable Books

These have recently been launched in New Zealand and are available from Sunshine Books. These books introduce the alphabetic code more rapidly than the other decodable texts above, but have been well received by teachers and come with a good teacher’s manual.

Heggerty Decodable Books

Already well known for their phonemic awareness programme, Heggerty are now bringing out decodable books to sit alongside their Bridge the Gap Intervention programme. They currently have a series of six decodable books aimed at catch-up readers from Year 3 plus, but they are also useful for younger readers that have been taught the sounds, for building reading stamina. Available from J and J Literacy.

Simple Words Books

These are decodable chapter books, brought in from the US. Buy on Amazon . Great for catch up readers who want to have a chapter book to read like their peers. A series for younger readers is now available too.

Mature Reading Instruction (MRI) Literacy for Teenager and Adults

From the tragicomedy of Henry VIII to the doom of an Aztec city, from the antics of Africa’s spider demi-god to the trials of Miss Elizabeth Bennet, from Beowulf’s heroics to Caesar’s hubris, these eighty-one poems, plays and stories offer a darkly comic take on history, myths, folk tales and literary masterpieces.Sound by sound, the Alphabetic Code is carefully introduced and thoroughly practised to secure fluent decoding, eliminate faulty guessing techniques, and lay the groundwork for lifelong literacy.

Those who suffer from issues such as dyslexia and speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) will find their brains ‘retrained’ by Systematic Synthetic Phonics (SSP). And those who fell behind due to confusing mixed methods and/or an insufficiency of practice will finally get the consistency, controlled exposure and varied repetition they need.

Having ‘cracked the code’, gradually increased their vocabulary and learned to read with fluency and expression, students are expected, on completion of Level 5, to tackle a wide range of fiction and non-fiction.

Word-count: Level 1: 8,600 words ,Level 2: 16,700 words,Level 3: 17,900 words, Level 4A: 12,700 words, Level 4B: 13,000 words, Level 5A: 13,000 words, Level 5B: 12,800 words

A comprehensive, 172-page Tutor Guide offers Practical Teaaching Points, Initial and Final Assessments, Background Information About the Stories, Record Keeping, Fluency Practice, Copying and Dictation Exercises, Frequently Asked Questions, and Troubleshooting.

NOTE: You need to buy lesson plans for the level ,decodable books  for the level  and tutor book which covers all levels if you wish to use as a programme.

Purchase from Amazon AU


SPELD South Australia

SPELD SA has two series of free downloadable decodable books. These follow a different sequence than the more commonly used books above.

Their original range is here and a new series, produced in 2020, is available here

Phonic Books

Phonic books also released a series of free decodable books during the COVID 19 Lockdown that can be printed out. They also have accompanying worksheets.


Little Learners Love Literacy (LLLL)

Some of the LLLL range are available as apps on both iTunes and Google Play

Phonics books

Phonic books have their Dandelion Launchers series 1-7 available as iPad apps

Decodable Readers Australia

This company has their books available as apps for download on both the App store and the Play store . They feature a bunch of cute little Australian critters. Each series introduces a lot of grapheme-phoneme correspondences at a time and so may be more suited for revision than teaching.


These are high interest, lower level books which are available in many libraries. They are not decodable, but are useful for older readers who have a good bank of sight words to build their reading stamina. Available in NZ from most good books stores. 


There are of course many, many other decodable books available worldwide. We have only featured the books most commonly used amongst our group members. Alison Clarke of Spelfabet has a great blog post with a more exhaustive list of decodable book options that you may want to check out here


Ready to Read Phonics Plus books provided to schools by the Ministry of Education.


Many New Zealand schools have invested heavily in predictable texts – what do we do with them now that we know they don’t support a Structured Literacy approach in the early stages of teaching the alphabetic code.

This blog from The Right to Read Project has some excellent ideas for activities that use these texts in a way that can build literacy skills. 


Created by Paula Short, an amazing, passionate mum who supports the deb in many ways, and who advocates with Lifting Literacy Aotearoa for all children to be educated using Structured Literacy.

This document was created by Paula Short, August 2021 

Updated 18/01/23

Updated 28/06/24