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Matching Books to Phonics Features

There are several ways to match books to readers — by reader interest, by reading level, and by the phonics features a child is learning. Careful pairing of reading with phonics study gives children a chance to apply what they are learning about letters and sounds to the reading of words and stories. Because the goal of phonics instruction is to help children use the alphabetic system to read and spell words, it’s important to provide students with this practice.

Key Information



When To Use This Strategy

During reading
After reading

Appropriate Group Size

With small groups
Whole class setting

Why match books to phonics features?

Phonics instruction teaches students the relationships between letters and individual sounds. An important step in teaching phonics is to provide students with practice in applying what they’ve learned to real reading and writing.

Effective early reading instruction uses materials (books, stories, poems) that contain a large number of words that children can decode. Other instruction might provide opportunities to spell words and write stories that also contain the same phonics features.

Collect resources

Finding Decodable Books

Decodable texts are carefully sequenced to progressively incorporate words that are consistent with the letter–sound relationships that have been taught to the new reader. This list of links, compiled by The Reading League, includes decodable text sources for students in grades K-2, 3-8, teens, and all ages. Decodable Text Sources 

You can also look at this descriptive list of decodable book sources from The Measured Mom blog. The Ultimate Guide to Decodable Books  (opens in a new window)

UFLI Foundations Decodable Text Guide 

This resource is designed to assist teachers in locating decodable text that aligns with the UFLI Foundations Scope and Sequence (opens in a new window). The UFLI Foundations decodable passages are directly linked, and books from other publishers are listed by title next to the appropriate lesson. UFLI continues to add sources as they align them to phonics lessons. Note: as with most decodable texts, many will include some words that are not decodable. UFLI Foundations Decodable Text Guide  (opens in a new window)

Using Picture Books in Phonics Instruction

This blog post shows how one first grade teacher uses Sheep in a Jeep to teach long ‘e’ sounds. Sheep in a Jeep — Teaching Long ‘e’  (opens in a new window)



Book Buddies: Guidelines for Volunteer Tutors of Emergent and Early Readers (opens in a new window) is a user-friendly resource for teachers/tutors of beginning readers. It contains recommendations and sources for children’s books that teachers can use to support phonics instruction. The book specifically contains a leveled list of books by phonics features located in Appendix B.3.

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners

  • Use picture books paired with oral instruction for younger and lower skill level students. For example, the teacher can direct the students to point to pictures that begin with a certain sound or end with a particular word family.
  • Create simple classroom books with one or two phonics features and have students look through magazines and catalogs for pictures that contain the feature being studied.
  • Have more advanced student students create their own short “phonics feature” books by using the target phonetic aspect to write complete sentences.

See the research that supports this strategy

Ehri, L. C. (1998). Grapheme-phoneme knowledge is essential for learning to read words in English. In J. L. Metsala & L. C. Ehri (Eds.), Word Recognition in Beginning Literacy (pp.3-40). Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum.

Johnston, F., Invernizzi, M., & Juel, C. (1998). Book Buddies: Guidelines for Volunteer Tutors of Emergent and Early Readers. New York: Guilford Publications.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Children’s books to use with this strategy

Topics this strategy is especially helpful for

Phonics and Decoding