Make-it-Yourself Beginning Readers

homeschooling-phonicsCan there be anything more exciting than having those phonics lessons finally “click” with your little one and hearing him read his first words? I doubt it! Listening to my children learn to read is a thrill for me. I enjoy teaching them to read and I delight in hearing them read aloud.

imageRight away it seems that children want to “read a book” which, of course, is not quite yet possible. Just because they can blend a few phonics sounds doesn’t mean they are ready to read Huck Finn. Children just learning to read want to feel the accomplishment of reading a book, turning the pages and finishing with “The End”. I’ve used beginning phonics readers, such as Bob Books, Now I’m Reading or Decodable Little Books to fill that need. Here’s how to make your own!

In my homeschool, I wanted to customize reading for my children and so I started making my own little beginner readers. It is easy, it saves you money, and it can become a childhood memory especially if your little child illustrates his own books. Our homemade books have been used over and over again and loved by each child that I teach to read. Their older brothers and sisters remember those books with excitement and that makes it all the more motivational for little ones to be able to image-1learn to read them. I use my children’s names in the book to personalize the story. Since every child can read his own name and most of the names of his family members, you have more words to work with than just those that can be easily decoded.

To make your own little readers, you will need cardstock weight paper to make a little book. I have used paper trimmings from the printer, old file folders cut-up, 4 x 6″ index cards, etc. Use whatever you can find: this is supposed to be a save-you-money project, so be creative. I  fold the paper in half, and then staple or machine sew 3 pages down the center fold to create a finished book of 6 pages. If I am using index cards, I staple 6 index cards along the left side so they open to a wide horizontal format. The first and last page can be fancier paper or a colored page decorated with stickers as it will be the cover.

Plan out 7 simple sentences, one for each page. The last inside page will say “The End”.  To fill my book, I choose words that wilimage-2l reinforce a phonic sound that my child is learning. For example, when I taught the phonic unit “ee”, I made a little book called “Weeds and Beets”. It was spring gardening time, so the subject was a natural. Since my daughter Emily (4 years old then) already knew the short vowels and consonants along with the words “a” and “the”, I focused on having her learn to decode that “ee” sound. Here is the little story page by page:

Outside front cover-Weeds and Beets
Inside front cover- blank
page 1- Weeds, weeds!
page 2- Emily has a beet seed.
page 3- A beet seed in the weeds.
page 4- Big weeds and a red beet
page 5- Emily gets a big weed.
page 6- A bee sees a beet.
page 7- Emily gets the beet!
page 8- The End
Inside back cover-blank
outside back cover-blank

With young ones, I draw simple illustrations and let them color them. Children that are a little older will be able to draw their own pictures to go with the story. Books that turn out to be a wonderful treasure can be unstapled, laminated, and re-stapled to make a sturdy book that will last many years. I have one of these that has lasted 22 years so far! The colors are still bright and the pages clean.

As your child masters phonics skills, it can still be fun to put together little books whenever a memorable event occurs in your family. When Nathan was 18-years-old, he was driving our little car home when a pickup truck hit him, totaling the car. After going to the emergency room to retrieve our son who was very fortunately not hurt, we visited the towing yard to see the damage to our car. Looking at that squashed-flat car made us amazed that Nathan had not been killed. This experience made a profound impression on my little ones, and Emily (then 7 years) wrote and illustrated a little book entitled Nathan’s Big Crash. She knew her phonics sounds well enough to be able to write it with very little help.





To create little books for a new beginning reader, use the consonants that he has learned along with one short vowel. For example, you could use the short vowel “a”, along with the consonants “c”, “s”, “b”, “m”, “n” to make these words: cat, sat, bat, at, Matt, cab, man, can, etc. From these you can make up a short story with just a few words per page. Don’t forget to include your child’s name as a character in the story too!

It will amaze you how well your child will learn, and will love reading these books too! Have fun!



May I recommend:

Remembering Phonics

Now I’m Reading! Phonics Readers

Beginning Steps to Reading

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Remembering Phonics


My 7 year old loves to read, but now that I am teaching my 5 year old to read I can see how the 7 year old struggles with reading. I taught him to read using phonics but I notice him guessing at words a lot and so I say, “say each sound”.  He enjoys reading and I don’t want to change that. Do I just keep keeping on or what would you suggest?


Reading is such an essential skill that phonics practice needs to continue on for a few years. If a student has to stop and “sound it out”, he has not mastered phonics. Keep practicing, and soon it will be automatic, just like mastering math facts and reading music or any other learned skill. Reading comprehension is hindered by hesitancy in knowing phonics sounds, even at the college level.

If you previously taught your 7 year old with a phonics program that has practice to keep skills reinforced and sharp (like my program Happy Phonics), then playing the phonics games for practice should be a part of his daily schoolwork. I keep phonics on the daily schoolwork “menu” until about 10 years old, no matter how well a child reads. This is the time period that they are learning to spell, and phonics is the right place to learn a foundation of spelling accuracy (by phonics groups, for example, learning all the words that end in “oud”, such as “would”, “could”, “should”, etc.). Exceptions and spelling rules need to be taught as well, but remember that the majority of words in the English language hold to the phonics rules and that is where we build our foundation. (I have spelling by phonics groups included in my Happy Phonics program.)

Encourage him to continue reading as he enjoys, but make sure you back it up with daily phonics skills practice….he’ll learn to be an excellent reader!


May I recommend:

Is it a “b” or a “d”?

Small  girl with the book
Make-it-Yourself Beginning Readers

Happy Phonics

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Is it a “b” or a “d”?


My kids are having a hard time in reading and writing lower case “b” and “d” and are always mixing them up.  How do you help kids keep this straight?


I teach them “b”.  Leave “d” alone—it will take care of itself once they learn “b”.

Have your child say the word “ball” with you—and then you write a “b” so they see it and make the connection.  Pronounce “buh” (the phonic sounds of “b”) over and over. Now, have your child reach up and touch your mouth when you dramatically enunciate “buh”.  You start with your lips tucked way into your mouth.  Run your child’s finger across the line your lips make when you are ready to say “buh”.  It is a definite line.  Write the line on the chalkboard in front of him.  Do it again, having him touch your mouth. Now have him write that line vertically on the chalkboard or paper.   That is the way a “b” always starts: with a line at the lips, and a line on paper.  (A “d” is written with the ball portion first, but don’t explain that—it just gets them confused. Just teach “b”).

When I taught “b”, I would watch my children silently writing and see them tucking their lips in to pronounce the ‘b” sound, and trace their finger over the line their lips make, and then write the stick line first on their paper. The rest comes more easily.  Saying “start at the top, down to the line, now up and around” can help walk a child through writing the letter “b”.   But knowing that memory clue of the line first, that matches the line on their mouths, seemed to help mine the most.

Once they totally master “b”, “d’ takes care of itself.  It’s just the opposite of “b”!


May I recommend:

Remembering Phonics

Child Writing Backwards? Letter & Number Reversals

My First Book of Lowercase Letters

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