I spent years studying language and sound development as a speech and language pathologist. When it came time to help my kids learn to read, I was disappointed in the phonics books that I saw most often. I wanted books that followed the rules of phonics and slowly progressed in difficulty and I often found that there was absolutely no rhyme or reason to the order of these books.
What is phonics and why is it important? Phonics is the ability to understand the correlation between sounds and letters. This is the first step in learning how to read.
Another step in learning how to read is the identification of word families and site words/ high-frequency words. In my ideal world, all phonics readers would start with only the short vowel sounds (apple, elephant, igloo, octopus, under) and then progress to the long vowel sounds (ape, even, ice, open, universe).
I have included my favorite phonics books below and I hope they are helpful tools when you are beginning your reading journey. I will tell you a little bit about each book I have chosen and why I love (or don’t love) them so much. If you have more favorite books that I did not include, please let me know.
*Phonics Books Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.
What are the Steps to Learning How to Read?
I get asked often when should I start my child on phonics books, and the answer differs by child. Generally speaking, your child will show signs of reading readiness between ages 4 and 6. But before they can work on phonics books, they need to develop phonological awareness skills. To save yourself the headache of attempting to teach your kids before they are ready, jump down to our list of the skills they need to master.
1. Reading Readiness Skills
- What is Reading Readiness
- Essential Tips for Reading to a Baby
- Learning Books for 1-year-olds: Best Picks for Language Development
- Educational Books for 2-Year-Olds: Making Story Time Interactive and Fun
- Educational Books For 3-Year-Olds: Imagination and Learning Fun!
2. Develop Phonological Awareness and Other Pre-Reading Skills
3. Phonics Reader Books to Help Grow a Little Reader
- Phonics Books (This Post)
4. Beginning Reader and Emergent Reading Books
5 Chapter Books
Our Favorite Phonics Reader Books
This is the first of an 8-stage reading program that I think is absolutely wonderful. This first set concentrates on short vowel sounds with ONE vowel sound per book.
The inner cover of each book has a list of the words that are included in the book as well as the high-frequency words that are in the story. Each book has an adorable story and at the end, there are comprehension questions! Eg: Match the sentence to the picture.
The literacy activities at the end reinforce the reading and understanding. These phonics books allow children to learn and master one phonetic sound at a time for a lifetime of reading success. As a speech therapist, I have to say these are my all-time favorite phonics reader books.
I love these phonics books so much that they are what I used when my three children were learning to read. I am not sure why these books are not more popular considering they have a wonderful “learn to read” computer program and app to accompany these books.
This program was developed and tested in a classroom and pays specific attention to phonemic awareness (the sounds that each letter makes). This program is systematic in that it starts with a CVC (Consonant vowel Consonant) pattern like, Zac or rat for consistency when first learning how to read. These are excellent phonics reader books that are very underrated.
This set of phonics reader books comes with 12 books: Big Pig on a Dig, Goose on the Loose, Fat Cat on a Mat, Toad Makes a Road, Ted’s Shed, Fox on a Box, Sam Sheep Can’t Sleep, Mouse Moves House, Frog on a Log, Shark in the Park, Ted in a Red Bed, and Hen’s Pens.
Each book in this series works within a word family ranging in difficulty from easier to harder. For example, Big Pig uses the short i sound which is a lower level than Shark in the Park since the “ar” is a different vowel sound than the a in the word cat.
Like the Charge into Reading books, these each have a list of the vocabulary words at the beginning along with the high-frequency words in each book. I would say that these are for children who already have a basic grasp of sound-letter correspondence.
More Phonics Reading Books
This is a reading program that has 8 levels of phonics books that are each geared toward specific foundational goals in order to help little learners become confident readers. The levels start with identifying letters and increasing phonemic awareness.
This phonics book is perfect for a very beginning reader. It has 25 phonics-based stories inside. The first 7 stories each have a single word family and the later stories get more complex with more than one word family within the story.
I think that as children are beginning to read, following rules and having consistency leads to less frustration. Higher success can lead to more enjoyment and thus, will help you grow an independent reader.
Popular Phonics Books for Kids
I put these books under the title of popular because these are phonics books that you will likely see everywhere and have recommended to you time and time again. However, there are a number of reasons that I am not including these books in our list of favorites and I will actually explain why in the description of each book.
These are the most popular phonics books for kids and I honestly do not understand why. There are so many things that I really dislike about this beginning reader set.
The books are 12 pages each with limited words which is great. However, the limited sight words are not identified before the child begins reading the book. The books also progress in a way that does not seem intuitive to me. The books introduce vowels and consonants simultaneously. From my experience, it is the vowels that are the most difficult for kids to learn in a CVC word. Books that are that change vowel sounds are an easier progression for most children.
This popular phonics book has a few things that they tried to do right. The beginning of the book has a list of all the words you will be seeing throughout the book. They are also based on popular characters which can be very motivational for kids
But, like the Pete the Cat books, there are very limited words that have the actual target sound and there are a lot of sight words introduced simultaneously. Words like “quick” and “trike” are very difficult words because of the consonant blends. These are also uncommon words to include in a book in a set that is supposed to be the short a sound.
This is a set of twelve phonics reader, books. At first glance, they are great, because they are divided into short and long vowel sounds and have familiar characters.
However, the words in this book of very long, and will be very overwhelming for a beginning reader. For example, the second page of the first book (short a sound) says “He eats Bananas for breakfast.”
The only word in that sentence that has the short a sound is the word banana which happens to be 2 syllables and 3 more letters than a CVC word. It is too long. “breakfast” is also not on the list of beginning sight words a new reader should be learning. Words like the, he, she, there, what, etc. are much more appropriate.
Important Vocabulary for Phonics Books
Phonics Books: Phonics is the ability to understand the correlation between sounds and letters. This is the first active step in learning how to read.
There are many pre-reading skills that are important to know BEFORE you begin the actual process of teaching your child to read. Phonics books are books that have an educational basis and emphasize words that “follow the rules” for a beginning reader.
Phonemic Awareness: This is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words. This is closely related to phonological awareness which is moving whole parts of a word. We have an entire post on books that help with these skills.
High-Frequency words: High-Frequency words, or sight words as they are often called, are words that you will see quite often while reading. But what makes these words special is that they can not be decoded using the normal rules of language. Eg.”HIS” the “s” at the end of this word is pronounced like a “z”
CVC: This stands for consonant, vowel, consonant. These are typically the very first words that will be presented when learning how to sound out words. Examples are cat and dog.
Sound-Letter Correspondence: This is the relationship between the letters and the sounds that they make. English is a very difficult language to learn how to read. There are a lot of letters that make a few different sounds and it can be extremely difficult for beginning readers.
What is Phonics and Why is it Important?
Phonics is the ability to understand the correlation between sounds and letters. This is the first active step in learning how to read.
There are many pre-reading skills that are important to know BEFORE you begin the actual process of teaching your child to read
If you are looking for information on reading readiness and do not know where to start, this is the first post in the importance of reading series that will help you navigate all the ins and outs of creating a lifelong love of books.