Rudey's Room

These Early Reader Books Rock


“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”

–Maya Angelou


My husband and I are of the generation that learned to read with Dr. Seuss and Frog and Toad Together. 

It’s nostalgic for us that one of our girls’ again again reads is from our time –  The Best Nest.

We’ve read that book dozens of times, as mentioned in this post.  It’s a family favorite.

As you know, it’s part of our routine to read most nights. Most nights, we read for at least 20 minutes. (Not Friday, though. Nope. That’s Movie Night in our house!).

Yet, unlike her sister, Stella entered Kindergarten as a non-reader. In fact, she didn’t have full alphabet recognition.

I wasn’t so worried, because honestly I had NO idea she didn’t know her alphabet.

I quickly learned.

Within two weeks of Kinder, I got an email from her teacher sharing test results.


I was surprised at her lack of foundational skills. Stella mixed up quite a few letters, such as G for H and K for L. I assumed she knew her alphabet. She’d gone to two years of pre-school. We’ve read to her since she was itty. Shs lives in a literacy-rich home.

Yet she was behind many of her peers.

Upon reflection, I realized that Stella was listening to more books at Veronica’s level versus decoding hers. She was always one step ahead in maturity content. Little sissy and all.

It was then that I recognized that we had misstepped on the path to Kinder – Stella watched more Austin & Ally then Word World. Alphabet recognition and reading sort of just happened with Veronica. Or so I thought. Upon refection I recalled the countless episodes of Word World, the piles of Site Word readers, and the numerous sessions on the Kindergarten apps on my phone. We’d been far more systematic with Veronica.

Little sissy fail.

I felt bad, but I also reminded myself that there are worse things than not knowing how to read in Kindergarten, such highlighted in this article. And we were not even talking about non-reading. It was the start of Kinder. She had plenty-o-time to catch up.

I also knew that as a Kinder to eighth-grade French teacher, literacy is my life and that we could get her where she needed to be.

We started in on the old-fashioned way – flashcards and games with the alphabet. We quickly moved onto sounds and then site words.

Within a month, Stella gained confidence and skills. Thanks to her incredible teachers and the extra work we did at home, Stella made huge literacy gains in her Kindergarten year. She went from unable to recall a third of the letters of the alphabet to reading at grade level.

Now she’s in the phase where everything is clicking and a new level of literacy is opening.

But it wasn’t until she met Elephant and Piggie that her reading started to soar.

I video tapped her reading to show her how awesome she was. She was so proud of herself. She beamed about her reading skills and per her request, I sent the video to my parents and mother in-law.




I know the early reader sections in the library and the bookstores can be daunting. The reading levels are inconsistent and many “easy” readers are either too boring or actually not easy. This makes it tricky to find just the right book that will build confidence versus frustrate.

For Stella, Elephant and Piggie is the winner.

This is why I share my plug on why the Elephant and Piggie series are just so amazing!

  • The books are of high interest and engaging. There’s a lot of repetition as the characters pass ideas back and forth or argue in quirky/fun ways. It’s remarkable how  Willems makes these characters come alive.
  • Willems employs so many Kinder site words. He is truly genius at packing so much literacy learning in each book and it seems there are only a few words per book that are a stumble. This is a contrast to many other easy reader books we’ve tried.
  • The text is sparse enough that the pages turn quickly, but the Elephant and Piggie books are longer than other typical earlier readers. A book can take a solid 4 minutes to read.
  • There is something so special about watching Stella read these books. She’s whisper lines, yell some, play roles with her sister and I. The books tap into her dramatic side and inspire her to read not just a word or sentence, but the entire book.
  • These are the stories that Stella wants to read these stories again and again. 
  • And there are at least 20 of these books. We own six Elephant and Piggie books and last week I placed a few more on hold at the library. (The Mo Willems spot was empty at our library – he’s popular and I get why).
  • Writing aside, Mo Willems is a cool dude. Check out this interview.

I so love how Gerald got his name.

Q: Explain to me why the Elephant got a name, Gerald, and Piggie did not.
A: Well Elephant is Elephant Gerald. He’s named after my favorite singer. And Piggie, her name is Piggie.

Say it out loud. It took me a minute.

Elephant Gerald.

Get it?

What is your favorite series for new readers? I’m looking forward to the Magic Tree House in first grade.



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