When you read with your child it should be a positive and enjoyable experience for you both. It’s a great way to spend time with your children and establish a closer bond with them and you can use the time to encourage them to see books as a valuable learning tool. Of course, it’s also ideal if you can make the entire experience a fun one too!
How you can help your child understand books better
You don’t have to be an English teacher to help your child appreciate books. It’s more important that you spend quality reading time with them, helping them to understand the impact a book can have on them.
As a parent you can read with your child and help them read more critically. This will help them to develop a deeper understanding of the books they are reading and vocalise how the stories they read, impact on their thoughts and feelings. You do this by asking exploratory questions during your reading sessions together.
Questions you can ask when you read with your child
Here’s a list of questions you can ask, broken down into the different skill areas. These questions will encourage them to think more deeply about what they’re reading. Simply pick two or three questions in total, so you’re not running the risk of turning your reading session into a mini-test!
Questions to ask before you read
As you read with your child, ask these questions to help them think about the book and where the story may go:
- Talk about the front cover – who’s on it, what’s in the background and how this can give us clues about the book’s contents.
- Look at the blurb (writing on the back). Can you predict what is going to happen? (Check back at the end, to see if your child was right!)
Your child needs to be able to discuss why certain words were used, and these questions will help them to do that:
- What does this word tell us about the character/setting/atmosphere?
- Why did the author use the word… to describe…?
- Can you find a word in the text that means the same as…?
Whilst you read with your child, ask these questions to help your child go further into the story and retrieve the facts:
- Where/when is the story set?
- What are the names of the characters and can you describe them? (Appearance, personality etc).
- What did… do, when…? What happened when…?
The following questions will help your child to discuss the contents of a paragraph/story and compare events and characters:
- Compare one character to the other: how are they different or similar?
- Why might someone choose to read this book?
- How has the character changed during the story?
These questions are for information that isn’t explicitly stated within the book, so a little detective work is needed!
- What does… think/feel about…? How do you know that? Give evidence for your opinions.
- How was… different after…?
- What kind of person is…? Why do you think that?
- What impression do we get about…? Why?
As you read with your child ask the following questions, to help your child think about the plot and predict what might happen, using clues from the story:
- Based on what you know about the character/event, what do you think will happen next in the story?
- The character is in a tricky situation – what do you think they’ll do next? What would you do? Why?
The following questions help your child spot ambitious vocabulary and description. They will see how words and phrases can add meaning to a story:
- Can you spot a word/phrase that tells us… is feeling angry? Anxious? Excited?
- How has the author’s choice of words created a feeling of suspense? Happiness?
- What literary devices have they used to create the atmosphere? (Remember SOAP – Simile, Onomatopoeia, Alliteration/adjectives, Personification/metaphor!)
How to make the reading session more enjoyable for your child
When you’re reading with your child you want them to enjoy the experience. Here are some pointers to help increase the value they get from your reading sessions together:
- Don’t ask too many questions! Limit it to just two or three per session.
- Choose a good selection of books for your child to read – but let them pick which one they want to focus on.
- Close off any distractions and give them your undivided attention. You want the experience to be a quality one for both of you.
- Create anticipation and be enthusiastic about reading together. Mood plays a big part in making the whole experience enjoyable.
- Have fun together!
When you read with your child it should be a positive and enjoyable experience for you both – but it can also be a valuable learning experience for your child too. By using the questions above, you can really help them appreciate books and vocalise what they think and how they feel, about the books they read. And above all, you’ll be making book reading an enjoyable experience for you both!
If you’d like some support with your child’s reading, then have a look at the 11+ Reading Comprehension Skills Course.
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