I’ve been a book nerd my whole life.
Listening to my mom read Wrinkle in Time while I cuddled up in bed.
Nerding out on the old SSR kit we had at home when our district went on strike.
Majoring in literature in college before switching to education after deciding I wanted to talk to kids about books more than adults.
Talking books with middle schoolers for years and now doing it with my own kids every day.
Do you always have several read alouds going at the same time? Us, too.
Piles of books threaten to take over all the shelves.
We are listening to books, reading together and on our own.
But sometimes talking books can be intimidating.
- Are you asking the right questions?
- Should you even be asking questions?
- Is is comprehension or interpretation?
- What is most important?
Even with years of reading instruction behind me, if I feel lost, this is what I do.
Readers Make Meaning
I start by asking myself, “What do REAL readers do?”. My kids are already real readers, of course, like yours. But what do I want to draw out? What do I hope they can do on their own as they grow with books?
I want them to make meaning. Have a conversation with the author of the book. Or talk about it with me.
I want them to be able to make sense of the book in a way that serves them as they grow.
Strong readers have an ongoing conversation in their mind when they read. They ask questions, consider character motivation and make guesses about what will happen next or who did what. Connections to the text are a constant as they travel further into story.
That’s what you and I want for our kids. But how to inspire that? I’ve borrowed a few ideas from my classroom and I've tweaked them to encourage conversation and connections to books at our house.
4 Simple Ways to Talk Books
- Side by Side Reading and Discussion: If you are reading to your kids, you are naturally pausing to answer questions and talk about the story. Keep going with that. Get your readers follwoing along if they are new to it so they can see adn hear the rhythm of a good reader. Get their eyes moving along the page as you read.
- Make a Note: When kids read, sticky notes are a fun tool to use. Ask them to mark questions they have or places where strong, vivid words pop up. When they make a connection, mark it. Experienced readers do this in their reading naturally but newer readers need practice in noticing. A deliberate practice to notice helps a reader pay attention to a book. Think of this as prep for a book club meeting. Encourage the kids to "note" what is worth discussing and making a record to refer to.
- Writing in Your Book This might make you cringe, but if we own a book, I jot down notes inside. Close reading is focused attention on the mechanics and meaning making in a text. But that sounds very "schooly". To give my kids insight into the mind of a reader, I make notes about what I'm thinking as I read. I make my own conversation visible to them. It's a low key way to encourage your kids to pay attention to story. And it gives an example of what is going on in the mind of a reader as she reads. (And if it is a borrowed book, post its can hold the comments and questions instead of writing in the book).
- Reader Response Journals In our house we have different kids reading different books. How can I check in to see how each kid is making sense of their reading? A reader response journal saves my bacon. Let's be honest. Some days you can't sit down and have a big discussion with each kiddo. Instead, we use a journal to pass ideas back and forth in writing. Some ideas of what to include:
- vocabulary words to look up/define
- setting or place/mapwork
- character questions
- traditional comprehension questions
- reflections of certain passages
In our homeschool, I want the kids to love reading. I want to raise readers. Readers have conversations about books. Conversations with the author. Or with friends. With their mom or dad or siblings.
Using any of these four ideas will get your kids talking, considering, making meaning. All four strategies give you simple ways to check in on individual readers. When you have many readers reading different books, that's a win-win for everyone!