Reading with Expression: And the PERFECT books to help you do so!

If you missed the post all about this 4 part series, click here to see what I’m up to.

If not, welcome to my first easy tip to help boost early reading skills: Reading with Expression!

Reading is supposed to be fun, and this tip is one of the best ways to make it more fun for your kiddos and (maybe more importantly) for you! I completely empathize with parents when they say that they get sooooo tired of reading the same book over and over and over again to their kids. I do too! Especially when that book is as mind-numbing as…say… Paw Patrol…Ugh. I was so hoping that one wouldn’t stick around long enough for my youngest son to fall in love. But alas, Paw Patrol is now and forever “on a roll.”

One way to make it a little more bearable is to read those mind-numbing books with expression.

Or… better yet… not that I do this or anything… do a second book that is WAY better and read that one with so much expression that you kiddo absolutely loves it and maybe forgets about Paw Patrol for a bit… maybe?… please?

Reading with expression doesn’t necessarily require voices (though they can help if you are able), just excitement, or sadness, or trepidation, or whatever feeling the book calls for in your voice. It is also about being sure to follow the punctuation and pause, get excited, or make your voice go up at the end (for a question) depending on the sentence.

Understanding the way a piece of writing is supposed to sound is key to understanding what the text means. Modeling the skill of reading with expression for our kids is exactly how they learn that skill.

Parents of the youngest infants may think that they should focus solely on building vocabulary and item recognition during reading time. While word books are GREAT, they can be a bit boring for us as parents to read over and over again, and they lack the natural rhythm and flow of our everyday speech.

Parents of older kids may think that reading aloud to their kids will be boring for the kids, or that they should be solely focused on independent reading and building that skill. However, as kids get older, one of the best things you can do to boost their reading skills is to continue to read to them. Sometimes you will do this with their old favorites, sometimes with more complex texts.  Sometimes they will want to join in on the expression-filled fun. Sometimes they will just want to sit back and enjoy listening. All of it is great; a mix of it is even better!

So, how do you find books that you will love, your kids will love, and you can easily read with expression??

Enter: Mo Willems

I assume that most of the people reading are already familiar with Mo Willems and his infinite genius. If you are not familiar with him, stop what you are doing, click this link, and buy. all. the. books. (Or be a responsible adult and only buy a few. But just a warning, you will be hooked and want all. the. books.)

My recommendation for getting the biggest boost in reading skills out of these books is this: Start by reading the Pigeon Series to your kiddos, then use the Elephant and Piggie Series when they are ready to start reading with you.


The Pigeon books are GREAT for reading with expression. In fact, they are just GREAT books in general. The Pigeon has so much sass, and Mo’s use of punctuation and amazing facial expressions/expressive movement make this series perfect for modeling how to read with expression to our little ones. The pictures and your voice combine to make the emotions of the story really easy to comprehend and make these books a great option to introduce this skill.


See what I mean?! I’m really not sure how you could not fall in love with this stinky little pigeon!

Once you have modeled reading with expression for your kids, you are ready for them to practice it with you (this is a classic teaching technique from an expert named Robert Marzano: “I do, we do, you do”).

The Piggie and Elephant books lend themselves perfectly to reading with expression with your kiddo. Because they have two characters, you and your little one can each become one of them and read back and forth. These guys have the same short, expressive dialogue and awesome expressions as the Pigeon, so it will be a natural transition from one to the other.


You may want to preview the book first to see which character your kid is ready to read; sometimes one is obviously easier than the other. But regardless of which one you choose, I guarantee that you will both have an awesome time becoming these two adorable characters!

This pattern is obviously not set in stone. My boys and I have read books from both series MANY times and in many different orders. This is just a simple trick to help boost the skill of reading with expression. If your kiddo is already reading some on his/her own, you could even do one Pigeon (you read) and one Elephant and Piggie (you both read) in the same night. Regardless of the order, these books are perfect for practicing this skill.

Also, even if your little one is nowhere near reading on his/her own, you can still read these awesome books to them. It is NEVER too early to begin modeling this reading skill!

Here are some links to just a few of our FAVORITE books from each series. But trust me, you won’t want to stop with just a few!

The Pigeon Needs a Bath! – Pigeon Series

The Pigeon Find a Hot Dog!  – Pigeon Series

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? – Pigeon Series

Are You Ready to Play Outside? – Elephant and Piggie

I Love my New Toy! – Elephant and Piggie

A Big Guy Took my Ball! – Elephant and Piggie

Obviously, you can use this technique with just about any book you already have as well. (It is just sooo much easier when it is a good one… aka… NOT Paw Patrol…).

Here are some of my other favorite books to model reading with expression to younger kids (maybe 0 – 3 ish):

The Monster at the End of this Book – by Golden Books (I have written a post about this one before if you would like to read more)

Don’t Push the Button – by Bill Cotter (also super interactive, which is great for the 1 ½ to 2 ½ year old set) 

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings – by Jo Witek (This one is great for using a wide range of emotions in your voice. I have written a post about it as well if you would like more info on this awesome book!)

Nibbles: The Book Monster – by Kane Miller (This awesome Usborne title features an adorably sneaky little book eating monster who your kids are sure to fall in love with!)

Here is are some more for the 3 – 6 age range:

The Book with No Pictures – by B.J. Novak (This was my oldest’s favorite book throughout his entire Kindergarten year!)

Go Away Dog – by Joan L Nodset (Some of the “My First I can Read” books can be a bit tedious, but this one is a great one to begin practicing reading with expression.)

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors – by Drew Daywalt (I have another post about this one too. It is sooo fun! And the book preview can help you get an idea of the tone before you start!)

According to Reading Reconsidered, a book I am reading about teaching reading in my own classroom, “Modeling expressive reading is one of the best gifts that a parent or teacher can give to his or her children. It is important to model expression and linger over words with pleasure, both to convey our passion for reading and to enable students to access and engage with the text.” Basically, the more we show our love for the reading we do with our kids, the more they will love reading. I sincerely hope that the books mentioned above will help you do just that.

If you have questions or comments, please find me on social media through the links to the right. I can certainly give you some recommendations for groups that may be missing here as well, just ask!

As always, thanks for reading!

Be sure to check out my post coming on 3.28 for the next tip in this 4 part series!!

*Please note – Usborne is a consultant-based business. If you already have a consultant, contact them to order. If not, the Usborne book above links to my consultant page.

*Also note that I have recently become an Amazon Associate, so if you would like to support this blog, clicking the links from this post to buy the books is a great way to do so. Even if you choose to buy a different book, getting to Amazon through my links will help. Thank you!