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Updated: Jun 24

I am often asked about engaging stories that are suitable for beginning readers. Short stories that students can transition to after decodable school readers or books that can work alongside school texts. I always email through a scrappy list and scold myself as it is still a to-do item on my list! Recently, I had the pleasure of being invited to talk at a local primary school about strategies for home practice,  and quite a few parents then asked this question, so it finally prompted me to create this series of short blog posts and a sharable list.

Many schools now use decodable readers in Foundation and beyond, and this is good news for students because they get to take home readers that consolidate previously taught sounds and spellings. This helps students feel successful and breeds confidence. Students may still be sounding out these words and still may get stuck, but repetition with this type of text will help decoding and fluency. 

This type of text is also good for parents because these books are easy for parents to use. Any book sent home is for consolidation—nothing new is added—and the book is at that just-right level. So, parents can rest assured that even if their child is still at the sounding-out stage, their child will be able to read the text, and time can be spent building the skills and knowledge needed for fluency.  

Once students are easily reading decodable texts, transitioning to other reading material is crucial to keep engagement high.

I have purchased all books. This is not a sponsored post.

The first book we read is always The Cat on the Mat is Flat by Andy Griffith. He has an amazing way with words and is able to create hilarious, engaging stories for kids with very few words. 

Each story is concise and contains short sentences that often rhyme or have a rhyming tone. The pages have one or two sentences that live alongside simple but effective artwork from Terry Denton. The books are always crowd pleasers, making kids laugh and often provoke discussion.

This book has nine short stories, and a few are available as stand-alone books.

Here is the contents page  

I often use these stories within my explicit sequence. I start sessions with a story, and we discuss the target sounds and spellings to explore. Starting with a story is also good for word study. We use the story to collect words to study.

Stand-alone titles

The Cat and the Rat and the Baseball Bat

Frog on a Log in a Bog

Duck in a Truck in the Muck is out of print but can still be found secondhand and in libraries. Perfect for introducing and teaching the spelling <ck>. I don't have the stand-alone copy. I always use the story in the anthology text. The simple line drawings work so well with the text.

The <ck> words in this story are — back, buck, chuck, duck, luck, muck, muck-sucker, stuck, suck, sucked, sucking, truck, unstuck.

Andy G, Terry D, The Brave Tea-lady and the Evil Bee is out of print but can still be found secondhand and in libraries. We use this story to explore <ee> words.

The <ee> spellings in this book are — angrily, bee, bravery, feet, flee, free, glee, see, seek, speedily, threateningly, three, tree, yippee, be, me, she, we, evil, Andy, enemy, lady, nasty, Terry, trolley. This book is also perfect for discussing the suffix <ly> and <y> as a suffix.

Ed and Ted and Ted’s Dog Fred is out of print, but it can still be found secondhand and in libraries.

The Big Fat Cow that Goes Kapow is another Andy Griffith book that all my students love.

I have never had a student not want to read this book. There are ten short stories in this book. I add post-it notes to the stories I want my students to read before we meet again. Often, if not always, my students will read on because the stories are so engaging. Andy Griffith and Terry Denton have a brilliant way with words that hold kids captive. There is a lot of humour that is just right for primary-aged kids. It is completely on their wavelength and has them howling with laughter.

Contents page

Big Fat Cows and Brave Dave are stand-alone stories available secondhand and in libraries. I bought my stand-alone copies years ago when my own kids were learning to read.

Brave Dave is, without a doubt, a favourite, and kids will ask for this book again and again. The final E words in this story are Dave, Brave, takes, hides, and makes.

It is the perfect story to teach or review final E. It is my go-to story to set the scene.

One word can kickstart so much learning. The word brave is perfect for teaching or reviewing suffixing conventions. Exploring one word is a very effective way to show how words change as suffixes are added. Suffix tiles are the perfect resource to show how suffixing conventions work. It's not as simple as just saying — add -ly now it says bravely. Adding newly built words to sentences helps the student see how words fit and how they differ from the other words built. We always create oral sentences first before writing. The oral sentence-making sets the scene for writing, and if students are unsure how to use a word, this discussion helps with meaning and comprehension.

Learning to read is hard work, but it is an arduous climb for some. That climb can be made easier when we teach explicitly and make lots of time available for repetition. Engaging, systematic, cumulative literacy sessions in school and intervention centres can lighten the load and help all students feel successful.


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