Best Children's Books for:
Guided Reading Level E / DRA Level 8

Below are the best early reader books that are written at Guided Reading Level A-E / DRA Level A-8 books. (It's the same level--just some schools use the one book leveling system and others use the other.)  In general:

  • Kindergarteners read books at Guided Reading Level A-C / DRA Level A-4
  • First graders read books at Guided Reading Level C-E / DRA Level 4-8 in the first three months or so of first grade, and then ideally progress all the way up to level J/16 by the end of first grade. (Hit back to access those levels).

Note: Since every child is different, you might want to check with your child's teacher to determine his/her exact level.

As teachers ourselves, we sincerely hope this information will be a helpful resource for teachers in need of books for their classrooms or parents looking for books for their own children to read. And if we've left your favorite off our list, please do let us know!  We love book recommendations.

This page lists:
   (1) discount sets of early reader books all written at this level
   (2) individual books at this level (with links to buy on Amazon)
   (3) word decoding strategies beyond "just sound it out"
   (4) skills to help early readers develop at level A-2 / 1-8

Below is a list of the best Level A-E / DRA A-8 children's books that we could find that are available to buy on In our experience, you can't just buy any books written at this level.  Because word choice is so restricted, many books written at this level are dreadfully dull or super awkward. But not the books below.  They all pass our 'teacher test' AND kids really like them too. :)

Please note that as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

My Dog, Buddy

A Cat in a Coat
Ant Hill More Snacks
Autumn Leaves are Falling

Decoding Strategies:
Advice to Give Early Readers Beyond "Just Sound It Out"

For generations, the only advice children were given when learning to read was "sound it out."  Sounding out words is a great some cases.  But it's just one of a number of different 'word decoding strategies' that good readers should employ when the come across challenging words.  Below are the four main strategies that readers of Guided Reading Level A-E / DRA Level 1-8 books should employ when trying to read new words:

(1)  Look at the picture for clues -- Trust us...this is NOT cheating. Please fight the urge to cover up the picture with your hand. :)  Instead, early readers should be really encouraged to look at pictures in order to help them read harder words.  Indeed, authors of books aimed at this audience INTENTIONALLY include clues in their pictures to help kids read challenging words.  For example, a Level A/1 book about the zoo might read "I see a giraffe at the zoo."  Since very beginning readers cannot read a word like 'giraffe', the picture will help them with that tricky word.  Trust us.... it's not cheating.  If they are looking at the pictures for clues it's because they need the extra help. 

(2)  Get the word started -- Children should develop the practice of getting words started by saying the beginning sound. 

(3)   Sound it out -- 

(4)  Look for chunks or small words inside the unknown word --  Children start reading by tackling words letter by letter. This is a great first step, but you really start seeing great strides in reading when kids start reading words in 'chunks' or 'parts they already know'. For example, when trying to read the word "which", a child who is reading letter by letter will have a very hard time decoding this word. (If you make each of those individual letter sounds, you will notice that the resulting word is nowhere near the actual word!)  By contrast, a child who has learned /ch/ and /wh/ (digraphs) and recognizes those chunks ahead of time will read the word as /wh/ /i/ /ch/.  He/she will likely then be able to easily blend those sounds together and recognize the actual word.

Skills to Foster
in readers of Level A-E / DRA 1-8 books

Below are reading skills -- in order of difficulty -- that can help readers at this level start their journey of reading:

  • Hold the book right side up and turning the pages from left to right
  • Understand the ‘left-to-right movement’ of text and the ‘return sweep’ of text (at the end of a line)
  • Tell the difference between the words (print) and the illustrations (pictures)
  • Start to match word-by-word by pointing with under the words with a finger
  • Locate known words on a page  (ie: "which word is 'am' ")
  • Relate elements of the story to their own life and their own experiences
  • Look at pictures as part of the reading process and be able to gather information from the details in pictures
  • Start to “self-monitor” enough to pick up mistakes when read word (doesn't make sense in context, ie:  "I like to play shoe"...Wait, what?)
  • Reread words and phrases to decode tricky words or confirm that word was read correctly
  • Use picture clues when attempting to decode words
  • Begin to use strategies to solve unknown words rather than simply wanting the word provided by the adult
  • Start to recognizes known words more quickly
  • Read new words using knowledge of sound/letter relationships and chunks (word families)
  • Decodes challenging words by taking them apart
  • Able to talk about the text after reading, including retelling story elements with beginning, middle, and end parts
  • Able to make predictions when reading
  • Able to make connections between (1) the book and their own lives [text-to-self] and (2) the book and other books previously read [text-to-text]

return to the Guided Reading levels main page          return to the DRA Levels main page