How is schooling from home going so far? I’m hoping this mini-series on Literacy Insights for Parents is helping you make your children super readers while they are at home. By now, your kids are reading on a regular basis at home. You have a cozy reading nook, schedule, variety of free books, and ways to engage your reader. If you don’t have those in place yet, you can quickly find out how to get those valuable routines in place at here and here.
If you have a routine of reading occurring in your home, it’s time to engage in the next step: Encouraging your kids to keep reading through discussion! To determine which reading skills are important to teach students, we can look to good adult readers for clues as to what makes them successful. So, what do strategic adult readers usually want to do after reading a good chapter, article, or book? They talk about it! How many times have you heard a friend say, “I just read this great book!” or seen someone post an article they found interesting on social media? Probably too many to count! And, just like adults, when kids like their reading, they want to talk about it!
Discussing what you’ve read afterwards is one of the critically important ways that your brain processes and understands the reading. In fact, it is so important that, if skipped, it creates many problems. Examples: it could decrease the reader’s desire to keep reading that book, create some “potholes” of comprehension, and even decrease the joy of reading. In fact, according to research and action research from teachers around the world, there are many reasons why we should follow-up reading with some type of discussion. Discussions during or after reading:
- improve the memory of the information in the text or storyline
- connect people to one another (always healthy, especially now!)
- generate new insights
- improve spoken vocabulary
- deepen understanding and clarify misunderstandings
- motivate students to want to write about what they read (this is the next topic I’ll write about)
- promote and build on one of the top 21st Century Skills that CEOs are saying is more important than IQ
- grow speaking and listening skills that stem from your children’s state standards – no matter what state you are from!
Encourage Kids to Read Through Discussion
What does it look like to structure a discussion that will inherently encourage kids to read? Here are some tips:
- Create Connection. Sit close, with your body turned toward your child. Make consistent eye contact to show you’re listening. Smile.
- Have The Text Right Next To You. Having the text right next to the child so he/she can go back to it while discussing (possibly showing sections, pictures, where the confusion was, how the author said it, exciting parts, etc.).
- Share a Thinking Job. Discuss the purpose for reading (what the reader has focused on during the reading) so discussions can stay focused on the most important parts of the text (optional).
- Facilitate a “Back and Forth” Mentality. Think of it as ping pong with just two people and volleyball with more than two people. The reader, not the parent, should do most of the talking. (Download my Discussion Questions and Elaboration Stems that Encourage Kids to Read for inspiration!)
- Share a Fun Snack. I don’t know about you, but I love to eat some healthy snacks (or chocolate!) while talking about a great book with my friends.
- Provide Generic Question Stems. Teachers always read the book beforehand, but many of us are juggling jobs while we are home schooling our kids. See below for some generic question stems to ask your child in case you didn’t have time to read the book ahead of time.
What To Ask To Encourage Your Kids to Read
Here are five opening discussion questions that you can use with almost any reading that will help turn kids’ brains on, get them thinking, and encourage them to read:
- What was this reading about?
- What was the title? Why do you think the author chose that title?
- How does what you read relate to you?
- What do you think the author wanted you to take away from this reading? Why?
- What strategies did you use while reading? How well did they work? Which ones will you use next time?
It’s possible to encourage kids to read even more by using elaboration questions. These questions encourage them to go deeper with more details about the book. Here are some example question-stems that will work with almost any reading:
- Can you tell me more about that?
- What would you compare that with?
- Why do you think that? Have you thought about…?
- Where did you find that information?
Good news – there’s many more where those came from! Click below to download the rest for free!
Irresistibly Creative Ways to Encourage Kids to Read
Sometimes we have to pull out all the stops to encourage kids to read. Here are some fun yet still simple ideas.
- Create a Fortune Teller. Quickly make this fun throwback toy, choose 9 questions for the discussion, and prove to your kid that life before technology wasn’t all boring.
- Use Technology to Connect. If you’re struggling to find time to discuss what your child read that day, use a technology tool to connect your child to the substitute teacher (AKA Grandma). Apps like FaceTime and Marco Polo, and Google Duo are great places that your kid can share what’s on their mind to a private audience.
- Use Technology to Create. Play “YouTube Star” by allowing your child to record a selfie video about their reading. Or, use the Voice Memo app for your child to record their thoughts in a funny voice/accent.
- Use Art. Pull out the crayons, markers, clay, or paints and ask your child to illustrate their thoughts or reactions to what they read and share it with you when they’re done.
- The Student Becomes The Master. Encourage your child to create their own discussion questions or stems and then use them to lead the discussion about their book. Yes, student-led discussions are more exciting to your children because they are “being the teacher” for the discussion – autonomy is a great motivator! If you have read the book, the discussion will be much richer, but if time didn’t allow for that, just feed off what your child has said to keep it going.
Now that you have a tool belt full of ideas to encourage your kids to read, I hope you’ll enjoy the reading process as much as I do! Although reading can have its challenges, it should always have an element of joy!