Why What You Ask is So Important for Young Readers

This post came up as I was conferencing with one of my parents. She and her husband are involved and super supportive. We were discussing ways to improve her child’s comprehension. To be fair, he comprehends well. He’s a child that can complete a typical story map without assistance. We wanted to dig deeper.

Now, there are some very dynamic story-time readers out there that actively engage children as they read with thought-provoking questions, but not everyone has time when the story needs to be read in ten minutes before the lights go out and it’s bedtime.

As adults, we sometimes don’t think to verbally express our thought process as we read a book. We read with funny voices to make our children giggle, but going beyond that isn’t along our usual line of thinking. Our children benefit greatly from us modeling how we think. It teaches them how we connect the pieces to better understand what we’re reading.

I want you to reexamine how you engage with your children when you’re reading with them. Even before they take the books into their own hands, you can engage them in thought-provoking discussions that help them to understand what they’re listening to you read. Once they’ve mastered characters, setting, and beginning, middle, & end, it’s time to go deeper with their thinking. Here are five questions I encourage you to ask when you’re reading with your children:

1.”Why?” This is always my top question, not matter what we’re doing. Any time you ask a child “why”, you’re asking them to analyze. “Why do you think the character did this?” “Why did that character feel that way?” These questions require your child to find a purpose for a character’s actions. They must draw from what’s already been read to form a conclusion.

2. “How did the characters solve their problem?” Allow them to recall the situation in the story in detail and give their opinion on whether or not they think the characters did a good job solving their problem.

3. “What would you do differently?” I love this question so much. How they explain can give you insight into their thinking. This also gives you room to ask more probing questions. A lot of your child’s little personality shows in questions like this one.

4. “Why do you think the author wrote this book?” This question can introduce the idea that books are written for a reason. It also reminds students that there are different types of books, and not all books are stories. This question also allows you to provide your child with a variety of books to listen to/read.

5. “Why should someone read this book?” Let your child critique the story. What did they enjoy? What did they not like so much? Why do they feel that way? Allowing your child to give constructive book reviews gives them a chance to voice their opinions and interests. It can also make book selection easier as you purchase or borrow from the library.

Of course, these are not the only questions worth asking, but I hope they give you a great start to helping your child become a more engaged reader who better comprehends each story.



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