“Sharing books with your child: Asking GREAT questions” by Sara Pollock DeMedeiros

Reading with your child is one of the most important activities you can do to help prepare your child for kindergarten and beyond. Not only does it introduce them to new vocabulary and the way a book works, it also gives you a chance to spend special quiet time together.

But, sharing a book together doesn’t mean you have to read all the words on the page! During your next storytime with your child, try to focus on talking about the pictures, rather than reading the book word-for-word. Use these questions as a way to get your conversation started!

Open Ended Questions are questions that cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”. These get your child’s mind working as s/he thinks of new vocabulary to use in response. For example, “What is going on in this picture?”, or “How do you think the boy is feeling?”

Wh- Questions start with word like “Who?”, “What?” “When?” and “Where?” For example, “What kind of animal is that?” “What sound does a cow make?” “What color is the cow?”

Recall Questions activate your child’s memory by asking them to remember something that happened earlier  in the story, or to summarize a book they’ve read many times. For example, “What are all the foods the caterpillar ate?” or, “We read this book yesterday! What did you like about it?”

Prediction Questions give opportunities to use critical thinking skills by guessing what might happen next. For example, “What do you think the boy is going to do?” or “What do you think the caterpillar is going to eat next?”

 Connection Questions give your child the chance to relate the book to their own life. For example, “We went to the farm too! What did we see there?” or, “The mouse likes strawberries. What kind of fruit do you like to eat?”

Completion Questions ask your child to fill in the blank. These are great if a story is repetitive or has a lot of rhyming patterns, such as saying “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you ____?” And asking your child to fill in “See”. These can also be used by pointing at pictures and asking your child to identify them. For example, saying, “I see a ___________” while pointing at the red fox.

Asking questions like these may seem like extra work at first, but the effort will pay off! By turning storytime into a dialogue, you give your child the chance to learn and practice new words. And understanding vocabulary means it will be much easier for them to learn to read those same words when they get to kindergarten.

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Sara Pollock DeMedeiros is the Director of Program and Evaluation for Raising A Reader MA. After graduating from Cornell University with a BA in Anthropology and a concentration in Women’s Studies, Sara worked as a Teach for America corps member, teaching English and Geography to English Language Learners in Washington, DC. Most recently, Sara worked for Tenacity, a youth development organization bringing literacy and tennis out-of-school time opportunities to Boston middle school students. She holds her Masters in Education with a focus on Risk and Prevention from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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