How to Develop Expression When Reading - How to Grow a Bookworm
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How to Develop Expression When Reading

Once your child has developed their reading to a stage when they are reading fairly fluently they need to work on developing expression.  In this post I will take you through the stages and strategies that will allow them to develop their expressive reading skills.


How to Develop Expression When Reading:

Understanding what they are reading

First we need to understand what is meant by expression.  Expression is another means by which a reader can convey the events and actions occurring in the text.  In order to do this the reader must have a clear understanding of this themselves so that they can communicate it clearly and accurately.


For example: Expression can often display the emotions of characters.  As the reader reads the dialogue they need to know how that character is feeling.  In most cases this will require the reader to have followed the action and to infer what the character feels.


How to Develop Expression When Reading:



Talk to your child about what they are reading.  What is happening?  How do you know?  How do they feel?  If they struggle to answer, read through parts again together and look at word meaning to improve their overall understanding.


It will not come immediately and will take time to develop  understanding to the stage where it can inform expression.  This understanding, however, is crucial and accurate expression will not be achieved without this so it is worth putting the time in.



How to Develop Expression When Reading:

Follow along


Once your child has taken the first step to developing expression by having a clear understanding of what they are reading they will next need to develop pace.  Pace in this instance is reading at the speed that fits dialogue and action but also allows the listener to take in what is happening.  The reader needs to be able to read at this speed with out stumbling and stopping.



Ask your child to point to the word that they are reading and follow along with the words as they read.  This will allow them to focus on the next word that they need to read quickly and accurately.


How to Develop Expression When Reading:


How to Develop Expression When Reading:

Modelling expression


Now that your child understands what they are reading and can read fluently at the correct pace they can begin to build in that expression.  The best way to help them to do this is by showing them.



Read a section of a book and demonstrate using expression.  Talk to your child about it.  What did they notice?  Did it add to their understanding of what was read? Now get them to try and copy you.  Start by getting them to echo you one sentence at a time. Then move on to reading sentences simultaneously trying to match expression.



How to Develop Expression When Reading:

Read their favourites


Familiarity with a book will be very useful in the early stages of developing expression.  If your child knows the book well they will understand what’s happening and be aware of what is coming up next.



Encourage them to read a favourite book again and again while practicing reading it with expression.

If they know and love the characters it will help them to build expression with ease.


How to Develop Expression When Reading:


How to Develop Expression When Reading:



Punctuation is instructions on how to read the text.  A good understanding of what every item means is crucial to expressive reading.


Talk through each item of punctuation and discuss how it will affect how it is read.  Demonstrate and practice reading passages and sentences to try out different types of punctuation.

How to Develop Expression When Reading:

Silly voices and accents


Something that can act as a great motivator for expression is that it is great fun.  Expression can include altering your voice for punctuation and pace but also for emotion and accents.



Show your child how to read parts of a book in an exaggerated and over the top way.  Emphasise  emotion and accent and have fun by making things sound odd or silly.



The key to this and many other reading strategies is to have fun with it and enjoy the books themselves.  Try these strategies when your child is receptive to them and is getting the most out of it.


Check out an overview of our other strategies for talented readers.

  • Lynne Madden
    Posted at 22:24h, 17 November Reply

    Love this post! I enjoy reading to my kids with great facial expression and silly voices for different characters. Great read 👍📚

    • tomrussell
      Posted at 22:28h, 17 November Reply

      Thanks Lynne! Me too! It’s one of the great joys of sharing books with children!

  • Jade
    Posted at 23:12h, 17 November Reply

    Great post. It is so important to focus on ensuring a child understands what they are reading.

  • Josie
    Posted at 13:19h, 18 November Reply

    Love the idea of modelling, will try it with my son as he struggles with expression.

    • tomrussell
      Posted at 13:27h, 18 November Reply

      Thank you Josie! I’m so glad it was useful.

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