Experts say that having conversations about what you read may help you make more sense of it. It's no different for your children. An amazing and powerful force is at work every time they talk about something they've read. Kids are still building their knowledge about how to read, how to make sense of text, and when you give them a chance to talk about what they are reading, you may indeed be boosting how well they understand and remember it.
Below are some suggestions for finding ways to engage your children.
Let your kids do most of the talking.
Pay attention, even if you are doing something else (like cooking) while you listen.
Focus on their descriptions and responses and ask follow up questions. That will let them know that you are paying attention and it will help improve their summarizing skills.
First, provide time for your kids to both read and talk about their reading. Make reading a regular part of their evenings, but also set aside time to discuss, share and talk about what they've read. You may have to be strategic about that to see it through. It may be temptingly easy to go through the busyness and routine of the evening and not plan for a conversation about a book. But find the time. And while those conversations don't have to be long, they do require some time.
Be joyful about it. Enjoy listening to them share. You can also model how to do it by discussing what you have read with them, whether it is a young adult novel or an interesting article you found in the newspaper. They'll see you doing exactly what you want them to be doing.
Second, ask simple but good questions. Remember the goal is for them to talk — it helps their comprehension. Here are some examples that will help your kids summarize, clarify and connect to what they are reading. What is the book about so far? Can you describe some of the characters you've met? Which ones do you like or dislike? Why? What is the main problem to be solved in the story? What will happen next? What makes the author's writing good?
You don't have to worry about being academically perfect doing this. It may feel a little awkward at first, but with practice you will improve and become more comfortable. Don't hesitate to add other appropriate questions. That will extend the conversation.
Third, pay attention. That may sound simplistic but when you slow down and think about it, it has profound implications. Let your kids know you care by listening carefully to them talk about their reading. Few things are as powerful to kids as giving them your undivided attention. Children are quite discerning; they know if you are engaged or not. When you are, it not only makes them feel good, it can improve their comprehension.
So take some bold steps and make plans to help your kids become better readers. Tap into the power of discussion. Sure, you will have to do a bit of planning, make a little extra time and do a little modeling to show your kids how to talk about their books, but it will pay off as they make more sense of what they read. And that's not just idle chatter.