Most of us are already engaging our child DURING reading. We read a little – we stop and ask questions – we read some more. But, you still might wonder, “Am I doing it right?” As parents we are one of the first models for our children to learn how to be strategic readers. There are several things that we can do during reading to help develop these skills.
Many parents are already asking their kids questions as they read aloud. However, parents sometimes get discouraged when their kids can’t (or won’t) answer the questions they ask. The thing is that many of the questions we ask are beyond the scope of what we could reasonably expect the child to answer. Here is a developmental continuum for asking questions that may be helpful.
This or that? Ask this or that questions to your littlest readers such as, “is this a pig or a cow?” to promote vocabulary development and assess comprehension. These questions allow kids to choose from two words in their receptive vocabulary instead of forcing them to produce a word on demand from their entire vocabulary (likely consisting of hundreds or thousands of words).
Yes or no? Ask your child questions that have either a yes or no answer. For example, “Did Bear go to school?” If you ask “Where did Bear go?” it is again forcing children to draw on their entire vocabulary to answer the question.
Simple answers. Once children can answer yes or no question and this or that questions, then it is time to ask more open ended question with a simple answer like, “What is the name of Franklin’s best friend?”
More difficult questions. Once students can access their vocabulary so that they can answer open ended questions, try to ask questions that require students to make inferences; make text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections; and answer other higher-level comprehension questions.
Ask children to make predictions from both the cover and other relevant stopping points in the text. They can predict words (such as with rhyming patterned books) or situations (with story structure books). They can even predict what information they might learn (from informational books).
Inferencing is a difficult skill for many children, and sometimes adults underestimate the inferences children need to make when reading a book. For example, something as “simple” as refering to a character as “he” requires students to infer who “he” is referring to…something that can be difficult for beginning readers. Other times, authors use both the text and the illustrations together to relay their ideas. Children need assistance in using these features together to make meaning. Finally, sometimes children think their answers need to be found right there in the book. With inferences, children often need to use both what they already know and what is in the text to make meaning. If they don’t know that their own knowledge is a valuable tool for inference making, they may have trouble comprehending some texts.
As you read, use a teacher technique called “thinking aloud” to show your child how you make meaning from a text. For example, if you come across something you think could be confusing to your child, explain your thought process, “When I read that Elephant and Piggie were going to play catch with a snake, I was a little confused. I thought that it would be hard for the snake to catch the ball since he has no arms. Then, I saw in the illustration that Elephant and Piggie are throwing the snake back and forth, and the snake is happy to be included in the game. Now I understand how this game is working.”