After the hustle and bustle of the winter festivities, there is nothing better than slowing down and curling up with a great book. Beyond modeling a love of books, I know that parents often wonder about ways to engage with their young readers, especially as they grow to be more independent. If you are finding yourself in need of some new ideas (especially after the twelfth repeat read of a beloved story), here are some tips for engaging readers – at all ages!
For Young (and Young at Heart) Readers
There are so many new and wonderful picture books published each year. Find a few favorites and read them aloud – or take turns reading pages, if your kids are readers. Embrace your inner actor and have fun with emotions and creative voices.
As you share books with your readers, take time to pause and ask questions like:
• What do you think might happen next? Why do you think so?
• How would you feel if you were a particular character in the story? What might you do in their situation?
• Does this story remind you of others that we have read? Which ones and why?
• What emotions might the characters be feeling? What might you share with or say to the characters if you were their friend?
• Do you see yourself reflected in the story or does the story show you experiences that are different from your own? What are you connecting with in the story?
• How does reading this book make you feel? Would you recommend it to a friend or a family member? Why or why not?
These kinds of questions can spark great conversations with young people – and adults, too! They are especially lovely for intergenerational reading, so share them with all of your family visitors.
For Older (yet still Young at Heart) Readers
While picture books are also great for older kids, consider forming a family book club. Choose a novel that you read along with your children. Read it aloud or agree to read independently. You can even listen to audiobooks on family road trips. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve my whole family silently reading in the same room – and I am sure that my parents appreciated the quiet time!
Discussions around middle grade books can be powerful, especially as children grow into the adolescent years. Engage your readers with some of these questions (and be prepared with your own answers):
• Why do you think the author wrote this book? What do we know about the author and what is their perspective?
• What questions might this story be bringing up for you?
• How are the characters changing or growing in the story? What events could be causing that change/growth?
• Are there minor characters that intrigue you in this story? If you could think of different parts of this book told from another perspective, how do you think those stories would go?
• Can you personally connect with the characters, the setting or the situations in the story? If so, what are you taking away from those connections?
• Does the story offer you insights into people, places or experiences that are different from your own? If so, what are you wondering or taking away from those insights?
• However you choose to create time for reading, I hope that these ideas spark some lively and thoughtful conversations in your home. Perhaps they will inspire trips to your local library or independent bookstore – two more great activities for a long winter break. Happy Reading!
By Rebecca Russell, Director of Teaching and Learning