This Is the Series That Helped My Kids Become Totally Fluent Readers

The Elephant & Piggie books can help your child's reading transform from "robotic" to natural and confident.
Dec 28, 2018

Ages

5-8

This Is the Series That Helped My Kids Become Totally Fluent Readers

Dec 28, 2018

Learning to read is hard work! Figuring out the sounds, blending them together to form words, and stringing those words together to create smooth sentences is a process. Fluent reading encompasses accuracy, appropriate speed, and just the right amount of expression.

When my kids were around ages 6-8, they had become pretty good at sounding out individual words. But their reading sounded robotic and mechanical — not smooth and conversational. Like many parents, I wondered if there was some secret sauce that could help them jump into that next phase of fluent reading.

And there was! That secret sauce turned out to be the delightful Elephant & Piggie series by Mo Willems. They were the first books I thought of for several reasons. First, I knew they were full of dialogue with just the right amount of words on the page (to not overwhelm my readers with decoding), plus picture support for proper reading expression (wonderfully expressive faces and body language), and lastly, they were familiar favorites.

A major part of reading fluency is being able to decode (i.e., sound out and truly understand) the words on the page. The Elephant & Piggie books use words that a child reading at a mid to late first-grade level is realistically able to decode. There are no superfluous words or details and yet, word repetition is aplenty. And, because the books are conversational and written entirely with speech bubbles, the dialogue gives kids great practice in reading with expression and sounding more conversational.

The #1 reason Elephant & Piggie helped my kids achieve reading fluency: They lend themselves to being read aloud, and even performed as a play. 

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Notice how easy it is for kids to know who is talking because the color of each speech bubble changes for the different characters. Kids can practice reading in one voice for Piggie and a different one for Gerald.

On this next page spread, your child has three visual cues on how to read the words on the page. The image of Gerald yelling which makes Piggie flip over, the speech bubble that is the same color as Gerald, and the text that is written in all caps with an exclamation mark.

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I usually have my two boys each take a role to read and act out. Sometimes they sit next to each other while they read and share a book, and other times I have two copies available so they can each have their own book to hold.

My boys pretend they're on a stage doing a reader's theater. I encourage them to perform the book by reading with accuracy, a conversational speed, and plenty of expression. When they get stuck on a word or the reading is sounding mechanical, we repeat the scene and start that page over again — it's a bit like real theater rehearsal. We even have repeat performances during the week to give them extra practice!

There Is a Bird on Your Head is a great book choice to start your own reader's theater. We've also used I'm a Frog and A Big Guy Took My Ball!  Actually, you can't go wrong with any of the books in this hit Mo Willems series, and you can read them in any order. We've enjoyed Elephant & Piggie together as read-alouds for years. My kids have come to adore the characters (a very unlikely best friend duo), and the laugh-out-loud scenes that unfold, teaching lessons of friendship and kindness.

Whether you're using Elephant & Piggie or another series, book or piece of text, here are a few more tips for helping kids develop their fluency.

  1. Keep reading aloud to your kids. Each time you read to them, you're modeling fluent reading. (Discover these Favorite Family Read-alouds.)
  2. Allow kids to reread old favorites. Familiar books allow kids to focus on the fluency piece rather than on decoding or comprehending. (Check out Kids' Favorite Books to Reread.)
  3. Let kids read to others. Skype or Facetime with a grandparent, read aloud to a younger sibling, or read to the family pet or a stuffed animal

The kids will have so much fun that they won't even realize they are getting lots and lots of reading practice. And, you'll be pleased that they're one step closer to being independent readers. 

Shop over a dozen Elephant & Piggie titles at The Scholastic Store.

Connect with Jodie at her site Growing Book by Book.

Shop Elephant & Piggie Books

Shop the Elephant & Piggie series at The Scholastic Store 
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