There is more to reading a book than running through the words with accuracy and comprehension. Finding the magic that lies within the story and revealing it through prosody is essential for getting kids to get involved with reading. A book read in a monotone voice is not nearly as interesting as one read with intonation of the words, syllables or with preference to punctuation, such as exclamation points or question marks.

What Is Prosody?

Prosody is the rhythm of the sound of words. It is the expression of the words through the intonation or tone. Phonetically it is defined as the level of acoustic intensity, loudness and rhythm, such as that used in poetry or young children’s books, and voice pitch. It is basically the grammar of language. An example of prosody when reading out loud is when a voice goes up at the end of a sentence, indicating a question. Or if the reader gets louder to indicate an exclamation mark.

The Importance of Prosody in Reading

Prosodic reading is all about the expression. Young children should be reading with fluent prosody beginning in first grade and be accomplished by fifth grade. Reading out loud with vivid countenance is a foundational reading skill that can assist young children in better understanding words when they read to themselves. It assists in reading comprehension as well as how punctuation and grammar work to clearly convey points of importance in a story line.

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How to Improve Prosody in Reading

The National Reading Panel points out that fluency is not just being able to understand and relay words from a page. The fluency skills checklist is the ability to read a text with accuracy, with prosody or correct expression that conveys the emotion in the text and at an appropriate rate.

A fluency assessment given by a teacher, school psychologist or other education professional will look for each of these to gauge a student’s overall reading ability and comprehension aptitude. The phrasing and expression of prosody can be improved by an adult reading out loud and showing expression while making eye contact with the listener at key points.

A felt story board or other theatrical book aid can assist a child in hitting expressive points in the story as he or she listens by manipulating the characters around the story board. This may also get them to become prosodic readers themselves as they connect the reading expression with the physical expression of the felt board characters. Children can listen to books on tape that are appropriate for their age in the car or as a nighttime ritual to assist them in understanding prosodic reading.

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at