Back when I taught middle school kids I was so surprised that mood was completely lost on so many students. They read in a monotone, word by word manner. No wonder they found it boring!
I definitely don’t want J to get stuck in that rutt. Reading is way too much fun for monotone.
So I was THRILLED when we discovered Mo Willems at our local library. His books are perfect for teaching and practicing inflection, even for the beginner or intermediate reader. And it doesn’t hurt that he is hilarious for both child AND adult.
We especially love his Elephant and Piggie series. In fact I liked “We are in a Book” so much that I decided to go out and buy it and I’m becoming quite the snob in books I deem worth my money. ”BANANA!!!” has become a source of laughter all throughout our day (you’ll have to read the book to find out why).
There are so many great things about these books. They are simple enough that J can read them all by himself but the story is still good enough to keep both of our attentions. So many of the beginning reader books are boring! These books aren’t marketed as beginning reader books, but I think they work great for that… or maybe for intermediate readers. I’m not an expert in early readers! If your child has a good base of sight words and a basic understanding of phonics, I think they will manage the Elephant and Piggie books well.
We can also read them together, each taking a different role so that we get to act the book out. J even wants us to imitate the faces as we read/act.
He has learned what think bubbles are and is getting great practice at reading with inflection which I just love. It’s so fun to hear J imitate the emotion and read happily, sadly, with disappointment or surprise, disgust, greed, embarassment, or even dismay, all depending on the story. That is such great practice! Willems does a great job of showing the emotion on the characters faces as well as changing the font to get the mood across (tiny font or gigantic font, italics, wiggly font, etc). Even my 3 year old can figure out it out, many times on his own!
And of course he’s getting great practice at how to interpret the punctuation as he reads. Often J can pick up the purpose of the punctuation or font type on his own from the context of the story. There have been times that he’s asked why the font was so tiny or why the exlamation mark and the question mark are together. Another plus! The books encourage him to take the initiative so that he gets it right.
And did I mention that these books are funny? J and I just giggle the whole way through. I love that he is getting such great practice reading AND enjoying every second. I’m so thrilled that Willems wrote so many books in this series. We’ve probably read at least 10 different Elephant and Piggie books and have lots more to check out at the library.
Oh and his Knuffle Bunny series is really cute too. That’s actually the series that got us hooked on Mo Willems. Parents especially will find this series humorous. “Blaggle Flaggle” mom and dad, “Blaggle Flaggle!”
**Willems also has a the Cat the Cat series (seems to be ideal for very early readers since he uses lots of repetition and use of the same word family throughout the book) and the Pigeon series (that will be next on our list to read through).