Strategy: Matching Books to Phonics Features

There are several ways to match books to readers — by reader interest, by reading level, and by the phonics feature(s) a particular 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.

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.


Teaching phonetic skills can become an arduous task that often leads to lack of interest for many students. The following link provides a list of engaging books that can be used with beginning readers. These books give students an opportunity to practice phonics skills using books that are fun to read.

See recommended children's books >

Book Buddies: Guidelines for Volunteer Tutors of Emergent and Early Readers 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.

Purchase Book Buddies >

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, students with learning disabilities, 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.

Fountas, I. C., & Pinnell, G. S. (1999). Matching Books to Readers: Using Leveled Books in Guided Reading, K-3. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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.

Reading Rockets (2010)


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