Raising Readers: Taking Turns

Oct 6, 2014

Maxwell is at such a fun place right now with learning to read. We are at Lesson 80 in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. For those who might not be familiar with this method, Teach Your Child uses an altered orthography for the first 73 lessons, meaning that the words look something like this:

In our experience, this altered orthography has worked really well as it helps the new reader see which sounds go together and which ones don't say anything at all while still helping them see all of the letters that make up the word.

Beginning at Lesson 74, they transition to a traditional orthography, which looks like this:

Reaching that milestone of 74 is always really exciting because it opens up the world of reading to them (and in our limited experience--two readers so far--the transition has always gone smoothly). By the time they get to Lesson 74, they are ready for it.

Before we reached this important lesson, Maxwell was doing a little outside reading. Now he is doing a lot. I find him trying to read things that are far above his level, and it is so exciting to see his confidence increasing as he has success reading "real" books.

I've said before that I teach my kids to read for purely selfish reasons; it's because I don't want to miss that moment where they suddenly spread those reading wings and take flight. It is absolutely thrilling to behold.

Besides continuing his reading lessons, we've been doing a lot of supplementary reading (I'll share our favorite easy early readers next month), and I've found myself falling back on a practice I used all the time when Aaron was at this stage: the technique of taking turns.

It's as simple as it sounds: he reads a page and then I read a page. Back and forth, back and forth. There are several reasons for doing this:
  • It increases the flow.
  • It aids comprehension (even if he's going too slow on his page to really catch what's happening, he can piece it together when I read my page).
  • It makes a longer book seem less daunting.
  • It's way more fun.
Of course you can use this technique with any book (I remember even using it when Aaron read his first Magic Tree House book), but nowhere is it more fun than with the Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems.

I've written about these books before (here are three of our favorites), and if you have a preschooler in your house, then I'm sure I'm not introducing anything new to you.

But in the last few weeks, we've been revisiting them with enthusiasm, and once again, I've been reminded with how perfect they are for this technique of taking turns. Before Max and I begin reading, we divide up the parts. Max likes to be Gerald, so usually I'm Piggie. Aside from the back-and-forth dialogue, there isn't any other text, which makes it so we're never confused about whose turn it is to read.

As an added bonus, these books are also great for teaching kids how to read with expression. Gerald and Piggie express so many emotions (fear, excitement, joy, frustration, sadness, etc.), and it's so fun to change our inflections to match what they're feeling.

As we've made our way through almost the entire series once again, I can tell you that these books are just as funny as the first time I read them. Max and I can't help laughing and laughing as each story unfolds.

Because we've been enjoying them so much, a few days ago I asked our librarian if she knew of any other books that were like Elephant & Piggie (with the speech bubbles and the back-and-forth dialogue and the small cast of characters). Unfortunately, she couldn't think of any, and the only ones I could think of were Geoffrey Hayes' books, but they're still too advanced for Max. (Incidentally, while we were searching the shelves for similar books, the librarian also told me that some parents don't like Elephant & Piggie for new readers because the speech bubbles confuse kids and make it difficult for them to learn to read from left to right. This info definitely surprised me.)

So now, as part of this taking turns post, it's your turn to share your favorite easy readers (whether or not they're similar to Elephant & Piggie) or even just your favorite Elephant & Piggie adventure. I can't wait to get more great ideas from all of you!

For more Raising Readers posts, click here.


  1. We have loved "Owl at Home" by Arnold Lobel, in addition to the Frog & Toad books. Also, "Hot Dog," by Molly Coxe, and "Ducks in Muck."
    "Cork & Fuzz" has a few books in the series. We've read 2 of them and liked them both.
    They have also liked several of the series books: Amelia Bedelia, Mr. Putter & Tabby, Henry & Mudge, Commander Toad.
    I'm always stalking the Easy Reader shelves, trying to find some good ones.
    We love Mo Willems' books, so I can't believe we've never picked up an Elephant & Piggie book before. Next library trip!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas! We've read many of your suggestions, but not Hot Dog or Cork & Fuzz or Commander Toad. Can't wait to try them out!

  2. Mo Willems is great!

    We love Tomie dePaola's book and making popcorn is at least a weekly tradition here, so I have to recommend The Popcorn Book. It has two brothers making popcorn with speech bubbles; one brother does a lot more reading about the history of popcorn but if kids take the part of the brother without glasses it might work.

    You Will Be My Friend by Peter Brown (he also wrote Creepy Carrots) has a small cast and speech bubbles but I can't remember the level of difficulty.

    A few other easy readers we've enjoyed include Little Bear, Frog and Toad, Dodsworth, and Mercy Watson (for a bit of a stretch).


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