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Updated: Jun 24

Sustained reading practice is crucial for fluency. Even when students have built the required skills and knowledge to decode unknown words, reading is tiring and hard work, so not all students want to curl up with a book. That takes time.

Short, engaging stories that bridge the gap between school decodable texts and traditional chapter books help sustained reading practice. These books have fewer pages and larger text sandwiched with pictures about subjects that interest the reader — magic, action-adventure spy stories, animals, everyday activities- school, etc — just right stories for sustained reading practice. Students love these books because they are their first taste of real reading. These stories are often more enticing than decodable readers because they do not use a curated set of spellings in a sequence. These books are not bound by the same rules as the decodable reading series many schools use. My students move to books on this list once they are up and running with reading.

It is hard to give a rule of thumb when students should move from decodable texts. In the clinic, we often transition to short novels and short stories once we have covered vowel sounds and spellings and students are becoming fluent. Many schools go by words per minute as an assessment. According to research ( Konza, 2012), the average student can read 60 words per minute by the end of year one. This score increases until adulthood.

Read more here.

A typical literate adult reads around 180 words per minute when reading aloud but 200-250 when reading silently. 

Read more here.

There are many variables, and all children are different. Some like the curated scaffolded practice that a decodable text brings and might feel anxious about moving away from the short stories. Others might have difficulties and need lots of exposure and repetition at word and sentence levels before they read curated decodable texts. It will take some much longer to transition to short stories and novels.  Once students are easily reading decodable texts, transitioning to other reading material is crucial to keep engagement high.

When they start to read longer books, students can often feel the need to finish the whole book because they always finished the decodable reader at school. So, we need to assure students that they don't need to finish the entire book in one sitting as they move to short stories. If chapters split the story, this is a natural break, or if the chapters are too long, one or two pages is enough. Reading is an enjoyable activity, and we want to encourage this feeling. The more students feel successful, the more they see themselves as a reader, the more they will read, and it can be an ever-increasing circle of success.

Decodable readers from school are often very short and don't build the stamina required as they are a scaffold to develop skills and knowledge, not the joy of reading. Stamina comes from sustained time spent reading something you love.  Reading is an enjoyable activity loved by many, but it doesn't start out that way. Children may love being read to. You may have a house with oodles of books, and it is a beautiful time when you read with your kids. But there comes a time when kids want to read their own stories. They want to be able to do what you do. They want to tell you a story.

A list of books includes our favourite stories that bridge the gap between decodable books and traditional novels.

You may want to hunt them out to buy, but consider using your local library, buying secondhand, or book-swapping with friends. Many libraries carry this type of text. Our local library has a huge selection to choose from. All the books listed are part of a series. Finding a series your child likes will help their engagement and motivation levels. Libraries are the perfect place to try on books for size.

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

Billy B Brown

25 stories and 6 longer mystery books for more advanced readers

Billy B. Brown books always start with the same question: Do you know what the B in Billie B. Brown stands for? This question links to the story and is a great conversational starter.

Billy is brave.

Billy is bold.

Billy is bored.

Hey Jack

24 stories

Jack is Billie B Brown's best friend. The Hey Jack series has the perfect stories to start a discussion about feelings because each book begins with how Jack is feeling.

Today Jack is in a grouchy mood.

Jack is in a bouncy mood.

Today Jack is feeling worried.

School of Monsters

20 stories

A set of funny stories about the adventures of a group of monsters at school.

These stories can be read in two different ways.

1 Student reads the last word of each sentence when reading with an adult as a first reader.

2 As a transition text. The student reads the whole text as a bridge to longer books.

Fly Guy

20 stories

This funny series about a fly and a boy includes stories and nonfiction. It is perfect for a discussion about the <y> spelling in fly. We then create a list of words and discuss the pattern — cry, why, dry. We also link to the function words by and my. I always use these stories to teach the suffixes -es, -ing and -ed.  

Zac Powers

25 stories

The Test Drive, Spy Camp, and Spy Recruit series are the perfect beginner series for students who love reading about spies, mystery, and intrigue. The stories can be read in any order, as each is its own adventure, or they can be read as a series. Zac is a member of the fictitious intelligence agency GIB (Government Investigation Bureau), and the books are all about his adventures as he saves the world.

E J Spy

10 books

Adapted from the series EJ12 Girl Hero for younger readers

Similar to Zac Powers. Emma Jacks is a member of the SHINE spy school. As a SHINE Agent, Emma goes on various adventures and has many gadgets that she uses to crack codes and save the day.

Boy vs Beast

16 books

An action-packed series all about Kai Masters. He keeps the earth safe from the beast from Beastium. Kai and his robot dog have many battle adventures to save the day.

Ella and Olivia

30 books

These stories are all about adventures with a sibling, so they are relatable. Ella is seven, and Olivia is five and a half. The books are warm-hearted tales about friendship, school and the world around them.

Meet Ella

8 books

This is a prequel series to Ella and Oliva. The stories are all about Ella, who is six years old and just starting school.

Katie Woo

36 stories

The stories chronicle the everyday adventures of Katie and her friends.

The world needs more stories like Katie Woo's. We need diversity in stories so all children can see themselves in the pages. These are the only beginning readers that I can find that represent diversity in our world. If you happen to know of others, please let me know so I can buy them and add them to my list. 

Lily the Elf

6 books

These beautiful little stories are about Lily and her dad, who live in a tiny house hidden from the busy city nearby. They are fun, magical adventures that are full of wonder.


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