Alternating reading with your child

Growing bookworks 2

When my son, Michael, was in Grade 2 at school we discovered that he had an audio processing problem and this was inhibiting his ability to read fluently. It took Michael longer to read a book or perform an activity in class than his peers and his teacher was concerned about his ability to cope in Grade 3. The work load increased significantly when the children moved from the pre-prep (ages 5 to 8 years) to the prep school (ages 9 to 13 years) and they needed to work faster in order to keep up.

I was more concerned about my son’s mental well-being and confidence. I had noticed that my little boy was becoming withdrawn and reserved. I took him for a series of test by a child psychologist and together we decided that Michael would benefit from a remedial school. We enrolled Michael at a good remedial school in Johannesburg the year he turned 9 years old. This was an excellent decision for all of us as the remedial teachers at the school also gave me a lot of advice about helping Michael to develop a love of reading despite his learning barrier. I desperately wanted Michael to love books and reading as much as I did so I was delighted to embrace their advice which was very successful for us.

One of the methods of assisting Michael with learning how to read faster and more fluently was for me to alternate reading paragraphs and pages with him. Michael would select a book of his choice. In the beginning it was always Winnie the Witch or Horrid Henry books. He would read one page and I would read three. I would help him when he got stuck with a word and sometimes read with him if a sentence was particularly complex. This method enabled Michael to enjoy the story and it moved along at a pace that was fast enough for him (and me) not to become frustrated and forget the beginning of the story before we reached the end. If the book Michael selected was a bit more difficult than usual, we would alternate reading paragraphs instead of whole pages to ensure that frustration didn’t set in with Michael. In this way he was able to read the occasional book that was above his reading level at the time.

I encouraged Michael during these early years of learning to read fluently, to choose books comprised of a few short stories rather than full length chapter books. Despite the alternating reading, chapter books took longer for us to read together and Michael would sometimes lose the thread of the story before we reached the end of the book.

We continued with alternating reading for two years until Michael’s reading was sufficiently fluent and well-paced for him to start reading entirely on his own.

During this two-year period, I also read to Michael every evening after we had finished the alternating reading. The books I read to Michael were more challenging books than the ones we read together, and they appealed to his sense of humour and adventurous spirit. Michael loved being read to and it taught him good concentration and listening skills which I believe will benefit him for the rest of his life.

Alternative reading is beneficial for all learning readers and can also help a strong reader with their word pronunciation and vocabulary enabling them to move on to more challenging books more quickly.

About Robbie Cheadle


Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with five published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Find Robbie Cheadle



Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads

Twitter: BakeandWrite

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53 Comments on “Alternating reading with your child”

  1. Reblogged this on Robbie's inspiration and commented:

    It is the second Wednesday of the month and I am over at Writing to be read with a post about Alternating reading with your child. Thank you Kaye Lynne Booth for this great initiative.

  2. Thank you, Kaye, for having me over today for a guest post about this interesting topic.

  3. God Bless you! It is the dedication to the belief that Michael could do anything he put his mind to, that brought him to a world others may not have seen available to him.

  4. johnrieber says:

    Terrific post – I am such a huge advocate for reading to and with a child, especially as they are learning how to communicate with others….reading seems to be a bit of a lost art for many….I have a friend who just had a young child and he was given an iPad to play with, but not a book in sight….

    • That is very sad, John. Without a good grasp on English, you can’t write TV and movie screenplays, you can’t write computer games (usually based on a book idea), you can’t solve complex maths problems. So many limitations.

  5. I always read to my two boys until it got to the point where they weren’t listening anymore- they were about 12! They could both read by the age of 4, but I think they enjoyed our ‘together’ time.

  6. And it gives a side benefit of some special mother-son time- memories he will have later in life ❤
    Love this post, Robbie.

  7. Darlene says:

    I totally agree and you used this method very well. Teachers can only do so much, parents need to get involved. Well done.

  8. tidalscribe says:

    Yes, I read to our youngest for a long time ( to encourage a love of books despite him being totally uninterested in learning to read! ), enjoying the chance to read older children’s books. Learning to read is a minefield for parents and teachers; our three all learned to read in different ways and at different rates, so it can’t be easy for teachers to help each child in the right way.

    • Hi Janet, you are absolutely right. Each child learns differently. Teachers can only accommodate that to a point. When Michael was sick it used to impact significantly on his reading and it could be quite a long and painful experience, even using this method. I used to curl my toes to help me stay patient.

  9. I so agree the art of reading is a very important lesson in life. My son had similar difficulty but we bought him books and read together ..his favourite books are now the books he reads to his son Dylan who hopefully will be able to read them to his new little brother …..we love to read together too. One favourite Hairy McCleary from Donaldson’s Dairy. We will look up your books too.

    • Thank you for your comment. We also loved Hairy McCleary and also Slinky Malinky (we have cats so that one went down a treat). I am pleased that you also had success with developing a love of reading in your son.

  10. Excellent post to encourage adults to share the love of books with children everywhere! ❤ When my girls were young, bedtime reading nightly was our goodnight tradition. Mainly nursery rhyme and fairy tale collection to begin. This led us on to share read chapter books as they grew. We would alternate turns in reading and this girl time together remains among my favorite memories of their youth. ❤ Happy Reading to us all with Kids Everywhere!

    • Reading in rhyme is such a delight with young children, Bette. My children also grew up with songs and nursery rhymes. I used to sing to them when they were tiny babies in arms. Now, when my niece, Coco Rose, visits, I sing to her. She also seems to enjoy it and lies there quietly listening.

  11. This is an excellent teaching method.

  12. Thank you for this great information, everyone involved in writing should know, too. Best iwishes, Michael

  13. willowdot21 says:

    Hi Robbie, I found this very interesting. Your solution to your lads problem was excellent. Both boys are lucky to have such a caring Mum.
    My middle son,now almost 44yrs old was dislexic back when it was hardly heard of. I had a real fight on my hands back then to get him help to even learn to read and write. We had to employ a very radical ( for those days) thinking tutor. We faced obstacles at every turn and were even told by the authorities that ” If you insist on having your son statement we can send him to any school we feel best. That might be hundreds of miles away!” Statementing is when you child is tested and found to have learning difficulties, the state then has to pay for special education. We paid for the tutor in the end. These days it is easier to get a diagnosis and help thank goodness.Our M is in a good job and is an avid but silent reader. We still get some interesting texts and occasionally have to help him with forms but we couldn’t be more proud of him.xx

  14. That is a great idea. My son also had issues with learning which kept him from the joy of reading. I wish I’d known about this!

    • You would think that this sort of advice would be freely available, Jacqui, but it isn’t. I learned about this form a friend of mine and then the school also gave some advice and help. We have been incredibly lucky to have such wonderful support.

  15. What a wonderful way of encouraging a child Robbie and well spotted that you noticed Michael was not confident and struggling, that you took it upon yourself to change schools and then set about your own programme of this alternative reading method..
    Having read to my children, and my granddaughter. She is now a prolific reader who is now also loving writing stories and poems at aged 8..
    So what you did for Michael was wonderful to be able to boost his confidence so now he loves reading.
    Good luck with your adult horror series too Robbie, and your love of writing, reading shows clearly here by the amount you have already written in your short stories..

    Loved reading and this Blog which is new to me..
    ❤ Enjoy a peaceful weekend ❤
    Much Love Sue ❤

    • Thank you for visiting me here, Sue. It is always lovely to see you. Reading to children is the best thing you can do for them and it is wonderful that your granddaughter is already writing poems and stories. She clearly has your creativity. I hope you are staying warm and filling up your time indoors with poetry and painting.

      • Yes, to both of those and knitting too, the bug of which will not go away as yet.. I am busy working upon a post in my Garden blog today, so you will see how the garden grows etc in a little while..
        And as for our granddaughter, yes, we love her creative spirit, she is one of those children who just likes to be busy all the time. And keeps you on your toes, I bet that sounds VERY familiar lol with your boys too 🙂

        • Hi Sue, creative projects become very absorbing, I agree. I saw your garden post, you and hubby have green fingers and that is a wonderful thing. I am not that lucky, my plants tend to die of something but my mom and dad are amazing. You are lucky to have such a clever and gorgeous granddaughter to enjoy. Have a lovely day, Sue. Hugs.

        • Thank you Robbie, and yes we are very grateful for all we have… Many thanks dear Robbie… Good to know your parents have the green thumbs 🙂

  16. Great to see Robbie hear and learn about her strategies to help her son improve his reading. Alternating reading sounds like an excellent way to do that.

  17. Norah says:

    Great post. I think alternate reading works well even when the children can read for themselves. It helps to keep the parent-child bond strong, provides a shared experience to initiate discussion, and is just pure pleasure. Well done, Robbie.

  18. What a wonderful post, Robbie. I read to my children every night at bedtime and when they were young; I read to them throughout the day. My sons are still readers as adults and have instilled their love of reading in their children.

    • That is a great thing, Michelle. Michael reads every evening with me still. He asked me if I would read a book to him over the weekend. We are going to look for a book we both want to read that is suitable.

  19. Teri Polen says:

    The benefits that come from reading with your children are amazing – it helps in so many ways. I always read to my boys – now one only reads if it involves sports, but the other reads much more during breaks from college. Excellent post, Robbie!

    • Our children grow up and make their own choices about reading. Both my sons currently enjoy fiction but my husband mainly reads non-fiction. Lots of men are fascinated by books about sport that I would never read.

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