Doing almost what we always do…in the pandemic and beyond

My good friend from California has been reading to her grandkids, ages 9 & 11, who are in Chicago.  Her 9-year-old grandson asked,” Grammy, why don’t you ask us questions like our teacher does when we’re reading?”  My friend was not exactly sure what that meant; here was my reply.

We have all heard about the benefits of reading to our kids every day.  Reading is an intricate component of raising smart children.  But there are some strategies that can ‘up the ante’!

Picture in your mind that you are reading to your kid and part of his brain is activated as synaptic activity is stimulated. WOW, this really helps if your goal is developing your kid’s brain.  Now imagine that you engage your child in a bit of a ‘book talk’…stimulating their brain ever so much more. If you were able to look at an image of their brain you would see it light up with activity all over the place!  Book talking is quite easy, and interesting with long lasting results. Here is all you need to know.

  1. There is a difference between open and closed questions.  You want to use only open questions.
  2. Closed questions can be answered by a ‘yes’ or ‘no’; a waste of time unless you follow it with an open question.  
  3. Open questions require kids to think, to reflect and to predict.
  4. Open: What do you think might happen if …? (Prediction)
  5. Closed: Do you think that is going to happen? (Y/N)
  6. Open: Describe how he might feel if this happens? (Reflection)
  7. Closed: Did he feel badly when this happened? (Y/N)
  8. Open: What do you think Jacob might have been thinking as he realized the paint was about to fall off the ladder? (Reflection)
  9. Closed: Do you think Jacob was surprised when the paint can was about to fall off the ladder? (Y/N)
  10. Open:  If that barking dog could talk, what might he be saying? (Reflection)
  11. Closed: Do you think that barking dog is mad? (Y/N)
  12. Open: How could you tell that the girl was happy to see her friend? (Reflection)
  13. Closed:  Do you think the girl was happy to see her friend?  (Y/N)

You can use follow up open questions to encourage additional critical thinking.

  • Open: How do you think Rosie felt when her friend ignored her?
  • Kid response: “bad”.
  • Follow up Open:  How could you tell she felt badly?  What did her face look like?  Her eyes?  Her mouth?  What was her facial expression?

Sometimes it is ok to just read a book straight through.  Be careful not to disrupt the flow of the book with too many questions…your kids will usually tell you if you do that!  Book talking can have lasting effects. Verbalizing questions as we read can help our kids’ brains learn to process information automatically without even being aware.  This leads to better comprehension, not just in reading, but in interpreting the world around us. as well.

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