Reading homework tends to be a part of nearly every elementary school child’s routine. Children are often assigned to read 15-30 minutes per night. Reading is the best way to become a better reader! Daily reading practice helps children develop fluency. However, once your child is able to decode the words on the page, and has a solid grasp of comprehension, reading homework can serve as a time to develop a few other critical reading skills.
Recently, I started having my first grader read to me at night. After the kids are all tucked into bed, he and I snuggle up in my bed with his current chapter book. As he reads aloud to me, he and I stop to talk about what is being read. We ask questions. We make predictions and connections. SO much learning can occur when we read with our child.
Henry and I are currently working on the skill of expression.
Have you ever listened to someone with a dull and monotonous voice read aloud? It’s awful. Can you imagine Ben Stein reading you the latest adventure story? Something would be lost. The way we read aloud can directly influence the listener’s enjoyment and overall experience. Reading with expression is an important reading skill, and a great place to begin working with your child if he/she is already reading at or above grade level.
When working on expression, some things to point out to your child include:
- words that are in all-caps (KAPOW!)
- words that are italicized (really)
- words in bold-faced type (mad)
- sentences that end with an exclamation point (It looks like Squeakyville needs our help!) *from Ricky Ricotta, our new favorite series!
When you come to one of these things in the text, allow your child to read through the sentence or paragraph. Listen to see how they read. If they skip over those text features without changing their expression, stop before the page is turned.
A few things to try are:
- Stop and ask questions about the author’s choice
- “Why do you think they chose to make this word in all-caps?”
- “Why does that sentence have an exclamation point?”
- Ask how your child would say that word or sentence in this particular context
Ask your child to re-read that particular sentence. (Always re-read the entire sentence or paragraph. Don’t isolate singular words. Always go back and provide context.) Many children become focused on simply getting through a passage, that they don’t pay attention to what they are reading. Have your child go back and read just the sentence that requires more emphasis or expression.
Modeling good reading is important too! Provide an example of “animated” and full-of-expression reading. It’s okay to be “over-the-top.” Sometimes, I contrast an animated read with a very flat and monotonous read. Not only will your child find this funny, he/she will begin to understand just how important it is to read with good expression
Context is important when it comes to reading with expression. When your child reads through a passage or text selection, have him/her pay close attention to how the characters are or might be feeling. If you are reading a story where something scary is happening, encourage your child to read a sentence like, “Oh no!” in a frightened-sounding voice. Likewise, model for your child how to read in a sad tone, angry tone, excited tone, etc. Here is a fun game to play with your child to work on emotional expression:
Emotional Expression Game:
For this game, you will say ONE sentence over and over in different tones. See if your child can guess how you are feeling based on how you say the same sentence. This exercise/game demonstrates that the WAY we read, often carries just as much meaning as the words we read.
With just a change in tone, the sentence, “It’s supposed to snow tomorrow.” can have different meanings. I would read the sentence with great excitement. Others may read it with sadness, anger, or frustration. Tone changes everything.