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4 Simple Questions That Will Make Your Little Superhero a Better Reader

Superheroes are in no shortage of cool.

I mean, as if the ability to produce quick one-liners and witty banter faster than a speeding bullet isn’t enough, they also get to do things, well, faster than a speeding bullet.

  • They fly.
  • They have superhuman strength.
  • They have x-ray vision.
  • They can scale walls with their bare hands.
  • They can read.

Wait, I’m not the only one who considers that last one a superpower, am I?

Reading: The Power of Invisibility

I mean, think about the invisible nature of reading: While you’re reading about that groovy cat with the white sneakers, the wheels of your child’s mind are silently spinning.

She’s hearing the words you’re saying, looking at the pictures in front of her, and analyzing it all in that little brain of hers.

There is so much power in this often invisible task.

And, if you are taking time daily to sit down and read with your child, you are feeding this superpower.

  • You are helping her stimulate early brain development.
  • You are helping her build key language, literacy, and social skills.
  • You are fostering a healthy parent/child relationship.
  • You are giving her one-on-one communication opportunities.
  • You are teaching her to be an empathetic citizen of the world.

Not to mention this one: You are teaching her to think.

Those spinning wheels? Those constant questions? Those picture analyses?

Those are the signs that she’s thinking.

The best readers think (often invisibly) while they read, and as parents we can, and should, continue to encourage this skill.

How?

Well, sometimes you model your own thinking.  And sometimes you ask questions.

Either way, you need to pull their invisible thinking into the outside world.

So, pull up a seat and grab a book off the rack (or that one you kicked under the couch last week): Here are some great questions you can ask your kids to promote the act of thinking while reading.

Question Type #1:
Make a Connection

One good skill for your little reader to practice is making personal connections to the text in front of her which, likely, will come pretty naturally.

These questions ask your child to reflect upon her own life. To think about what she has in common with the characters in the story she’s reading or what life experiences she has shared.

You can help your child start to make connections by saying things like…

The best part about these questions?

They begin to teach your child that our experiences can connect us to others, and that’s a pretty beautiful thing.

Question Type #2:
Make a Prediction

I bet you can guess what types of questions these are. *wink*

Asking your child to make predictions about the story in front of him is about more than just guessing what comes next though. It’s about noticing clues and drawing conclusions.

You can model this skill the next time you’re reading Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems. (There can never be enough Mo Willems books, amiright?)

Say things like,

  • I’m noticing that Elephant is spending a lot of time trying to decide whether or not he is going to share.
  • It looks like Elephant is sweating. I think it might be a hot day.
  • Those drops tell me that Elephant’s ice cream is starting to melt.
  • Uh-oh. I think Elephant’s ice cream might melt before he has a chance to give it to Piggie! He’s waiting too long to decide!

And then, make sure your kids are making predictions too. The next time you’re reading Knufflebunny (you know, because Mo Willems), ask your child something like, “What do you think Trixie is trying to say?”

And then, here’s your follow-up: How do you know that? or What clues in the story told you what she was trying to say?

Let your child explain his thinking and then encourage that thought process even if his prediction turns out to be wrong.  In this case, it’s the thinking that matters, anyway.

Question Type #3:
Make an Inference

An inference: A conclusion based on facts or evidence.

When we teach kids to make inferences while they’re reading, we teach them to read between the lines. To see the details the text might not explicitly state.

Inferences are not unlike predictions; however, they can’t be proven by further reading. The answer isn’t always waiting for you on the last page.

The key here is evidence. Don’t just ask your child to read between the lines or make observations. Ask her how she made her guess. Get her to point to her clues.

This is the heart of good critical thinking.

Question Type #4:
Encourage Comprehension

Ultimately, we want kids to understand what they are reading at a basic level.

Comprehension questions bring in pieces of all the others. They ask your child to make sense of all the words and thoughts they are hearing.

They are questions that ask your child to retell:

Eventually your reader will have to comprehend text on his own. A few simple questions today will get the ball rolling on that thinking as early as today.

This is Not a Drill.
I Repeat: This is Not a Drill!

This is not a drill.

Are early literacy skills immensely important? Yes. Yes!

Should we turn every storytime into a mini-literacy lesson? Of course not.

Reading should be fun. It should be something your child looks forward to.

This is not a drill.

I’m merely suggesting that you sprinkle those storytimes with a few thought-provoking questions. Just enough to get her thinking but not too many that she realizes you’re asking her to.

I know you have some stealthy superhero powers hidden up your sleeves, too.

Super Readers:
Here They Come to Save the Day

Superheroes are in the world-changing business. They take their superhuman skills and abilities and use them to help others.

That being said, do you know what good readers ultimately become?

Good thinkers.

And, do you know what good thinkers have the ability to do?

Change the world.

I told you you had a little superhero on your hands.

And you can start to give him the tools he needs as early as today.

Have You Read These Yet?

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Citations!

I is for Infant. Reading Aloud to Young Children Benefits Brain Development. PBS.org
Why It’s Important to Read Aloud with Your Kids, and How to Make It Count. WashingtonPost.com
Definition of “Inference”. Merriam-Webster.com
Parent Child Reading and Story Time Promote Brain Development Prior to Kindergarten. AAP.org  

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