Research shows that reading aloud to children is the single most important thing we can do to prepare them for reading and learning. While simply sitting down and reading each day has benefits that stand alone, there are easy ways to make those fifteen minutes even more high impact. While asking questions about text helps, engaging with a child’s reading doesn’t have to mean a constant stream of questions. Instead, consider some of these tips that can help get your child thinking critically about the story in a fun and easy way.
At Zoobean, we send parent reading guides to accompany all of our book and app recommendations. We wanted to share some tips from those guides that could apply to reading anything. Try implementing one or two at a time, to engage more deeply with building your child’s literacy.
1. Let the Pictures do the Talking
Kids are naturally drawn to the artwork in picture books, but you can help to connect what they are seeing to the story that you are reading. Point out characters’ facial expressions, locations, hidden elements, and more to spark conversations about characters’ emotions, or the world in which a book takes place. This is a terrific entry point for using “I wonder…” statements to start up a conversation with your child.
2. Stop, Reflect, and Make Predictions
Especially for longer picture books, pause in the middle of the story to clump information. Talk about what has already happened and where the character(s) are at the moment. This will help your child create a summary of the events that have unfolded and identify the important information. Depending on your child’s readiness, you might have to start with something like, “Okay, so when we started, the three bears left their house. Then what happened?”
3. Relate Characters’ Experiences to Your Child’s Life
Help children understand a character’s emotions and experiences by asking if s/he has experienced something similar. Ask, “Has ________ ever happened to you? How did you feel? Do you think ______ feels the same way? Why/why not?” For the younger set, it’s also okay to remind them of a particular event, prodding them to make the comparisons.
4. Make Real World Connections
While it’s important to make personal connections to stories, we also want to make connections to experiences and realities beyond our own. Ask how certain situations would play out in the real world by asking, “When someone needs to buy groceries, what does s/he have to do first? What about after that? Do you think ______ will do these things? Why/why not?” Or, as kids can think more abstractly, “I notice that only girls/boys are playing the game in this picture. Why do you think that is?”
5. Create Alternative Scenarios and Endings
This is a great way to help children analyze situations and consider what the character’s other options are. Say, “Instead of _______, maybe s/he could have _______________. What else could s/he have done?” Help foster imaginative thinking while also considering what the other possibilities are within the book’s world. At younger ages, kids might come up with some off the wall ideas, so remember to nurture those and accept them, even if they defy reality!
What tips would you add to this list?