“Are you asking your children questions while reading?” is one of the first things I ask parents when I do home consultations. Most parents say yes. It comes naturally to people, which is great, since it is such an important part of learning to read and understand language. When I first started running small preschool ‘reading’ groups, people thought I was going to have 3 year olds memorising sight words or something similar. Far from it!
Early reading skills really have nothing to do with reading words. There is so much that needs to come before that and can be done easily every day at home. Little ones need to listen to stories; interact with stories; have stories come alive with puppets or toys or silly voices; develop their own interest in stories; start to understand that letters and words have meaning and make sounds; mimic sounds; hunt for and point out objects on pages and be thinking about what they see and hear.
So ask them questions! You probably already are, but it is good to note that there are different kinds of questions.
As a Year 6 teacher in the UK, I had the (unfortunate) experience of helping kids prepare for the national tests that are given before leaving primary school. That meant that teaching became very technical and every skill was picked apart and analysed. Although I hated the tests, the preparation did help me understand where children were lacking in their reading skills (after being in full time school for 7 years). More often than not, children struggled to answer questions that required them to think beyond the literal and obvious. I place part of the blame on inexperienced or unsupported teachers. I frequently observed teachers leading guided reading with groups of younger children and found that they focused on 3 things: sounding out individual words, reading with expression in their voice and answering very straight forward literal questions. I was recently in a grade 5 gifted classroom and was a bit shocked to see the students handed a set of comprehension questions in which only one out of ten made the pupil actually THINK.
In staff meetings over the past 5 years (in the UK at least), Bloom’s taxonomy has been pushed a lot. It isn’t anything new. I remember studying it in teachers college ten years ago. It was developed in the 1950s by an educational psychologist (Dr Benjamin Bloom) to promote higher order thinking. It is useful to be aware of, but I’m not suggesting you sit your toddler down and grill them with this list. I’m not going to try and cover the six areas or all the questions that fall under them (because it is extensive), but please google it if you are interested in finding out more.
The point I want to drive home is that even younger children are capable of answering questions that are more challenging than, “What colour is the car?”.
You can discuss a book before you even open it.
Aim to ask some open ended questions while reading.
More than likely, you are already doing most of the things mentioned in this post. I hope you found a few suggestions though that might be helpful!
Hello! I'm Deb,
a book-toting mother of two and an elementary (primary) school teacher. I love making stories engaging and interactive for kids.
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