Have you ever been reading to the kids or to yourself only to stop several pages later and realize you have no idea the words you have just read? One part of our brain keeps moving forward while the other completely starts thinking about preparing lunch or that text the husband sent or how the kids are not obeying… I know I’m not the only one!

The same is true for your kids. Reading stories can be an opportunity for your kids to zone out. Reading boring stories is just that – boring. If the story is not worth digging in, maybe you just need to allow yourself to stop and pick up a better book. There are too many good and beautiful books out there to spend time and effort reading drivel.

We teach them to question everything and seek out opportunities for learning.

And then the kids interrupt us to ask questions… and we get irritated! Preaching to myself. Cut it out!

Choose Wisely

Once you have a worthwhile book, you need to make these people real and worth remembering. Just like memory pegs help adults learn, we are giving our kids pegs to hang up the information they are learning too. Connect the dots with other books, movies, places, and facts that they know.

Of note: To do the below, you will have to interrupt the story. The kids will learn to talk to the book and will interrupt. It will take longer. You will get frustrated. So be it. Be patient, parent-of-the-year. If they are asking questions, they are not only paying attention, but they are showing you they care about understanding what’s going on. This is what you’ve hoped would eventually happen and it has. Embrace it.

Teach them how to dig in and, soon enough, they’ll be asking the questions without your prompting.

Judge the Book by Its Cover

  • Pick a good book.
  • Look at the cover. What do you think it’s about? What do you notice?
  • Read the title. Is this fiction or non-fiction? How do we know?
  • Teach them to find the authors name. Do you recognize the name? What other books do you know by them? What do you know about the author? Why do you think they pick these topics?

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon.”

Brandon Sanderson, fantasy and science fiction writer

Thicken the Plot with Questions

Narrate back

Tell me what happened. Start with the youngest and all the older kids to fill in extra details.

Start with people

Where else have you heard that name? What do we already know about this person?

Locate

Find it on a map. Is it a real place or make believe? What does that tell you about their culture? Language? Dress?

Make connections

Who else was alive at the same time? Who might they have been friends with who we already know? What movies have you seen about that time period? Other books?

Time period

When did they live? What was happening at this time? What do you see in their house that is from that time period? Before ______ was alive or after? Was this before TV or after?

Compare and contrast

How was this version different than the other story about this person we read? Different than the book? What new details did we learn in this version?

Word choice

What different words did the author use when they spoke? Why did they say “Thou”? Why would they say “Howdy”? Were there any big words we didn’t know?

Author’s purpose

What was the author’s purpose of telling this story? Might it have skewed the story through their own view point and background? Can we trust that this is an accurate retelling? Is there a moral to the story? Lesson we can learn?

Put yourself in the story

How would you feel if you were this character? What would you have done differently? Would you want to be friends with them?

Next?

What would happen in the sequel?


Don’t Overlook the End Pages

The best non-fiction books give me several pages of personal connection, further research, and more biographical information than were in the rest of the picture book. These are not only a great review of the book you just read, but take the fictionalized parts out of the story to tell the details of the real event. Stop to show the kids how even these grown ups had to write a bibliography in their books, and look for the section that suggests other books to read.

Study the Illustrations

The kids asked me the other day who I thought as more important: the author or the illustrator. This prompted me to tell them of my love of illustrators. I will put down a book over a bad illustrator before a badly worded story. If we want our kids to appreciate art, how better than to look at the art right in front of us in our picture books.

  • Who is the illustrator?
  • Do you recognize this drawing style?
  • What other books by them do you know?
  • Can you tell how these were painted or drawn or computerized?
  • Which painting was your favorite? (This is also a great way to review the story!)
  • What details did they add in and why? Why those clothes? Those toys?
  • Do you see the shadows? Emotions? Same elements in multiple pages?

Make your reading come alive for everyone. Books are experiences. Interact with them.

Check Out These Additional Resources

If you aren’t familiar with Sarah Mackenzie‘s podcast, start here and get her link for open ended questions to ask your kids about books.

Follow my family as we dive into illustrator studies and practice asking the good questions.

How does your family incorporate picture books into your learning lives? I’m always looking for more suggestions and hope these helped you dive deep into the wonderful world of picture books.

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