Book-chatting: Asking questions about stories

What purpose do we have for reading if we don’t understand what it is we’re reading?

Reading comprehension is such a vital skill in the area of literacy, but it actually includes a complex set of sub-skills. That’s why I think it’s great to start fostering comprehension skills at a young age, even with babies. They may not be able to produce a response, but they understand much more than they can say. Make sure you read to the end of this article for some informal and fun ways to ask questions.

Book-chatting is a great way to determine what your child understands about the books you are reading together. It begins with the questions you pose to your children about the stories. It can also be beneficial for babies for you to stop during a story and ask questions. As babies won’t be able to answer the questions it is great modelling to answer the questions yourself.

Book-chat questions fall into four categories:.

LITERAL COMPREHENSION:

This type of questioning is classed as a lower order thinking skill because readers are asked to locate or recall the information explicitly presented in the book. I believe this type of questioning is the foundation of comprehension. Children learn that we gain information from books and that we can find meaning within the text and the illustrations.

TYPES OF LITERAL QUESTIONS:

When asking your child literal questions, remember that the child must be able to find the answer in the illustrations or in the text. Try and base your questions around key words, cause and effect or the order in which events take place. You don’t have to wait until you finish the story before asking questions. Here are some sample questions using The Very Hungry Caterpillar as an example:

Locate key words and main ideas: Cause and Effect: Order of events:
-What is this story called?

-Who wrote the story?

-Who is this story about?

-How many strawberries did the Caterpillar eat?

-What fruits did the caterpillar eat?

-What is a cocoon?

-Where did the caterpillar come from?

-What food made the caterpillar feel better?

-What did the caterpillar eat first?

-What happened after he nibbled his way out of the cocoon?

GAMES AND ACTIVITIES:

Here is a range of informal games and activities to play with your children using the information presented in picture books (Choose activities that suit your child’s age and/or ability):

Vocabulary/Locating and recognising key words:

  • Look and talk about key words before reading a story (These can be within the text or illustrations)
  • Ask your child to find key words in the illustrations. Give your child clues and ask them to find the correct object in the illustration. (Eg. You can take a ride on this, lots of people fit inside, it takes you from one place to another= train)
  • Play a game of ‘I spy’ using words, illustrations or a combination of both. (Examples include I spy with my little eye something that is brown; I spy with my little eye something that starts with ‘p’; I spy with my little eye something you can eat
  • Play a game of ‘Spot the ?’  or ask your child to name the objects you point to in the illustrations.

Recall:

  • Once your child knows a story well (i.e. after you have read it a number of times), ask them to read the story to you. Your child is not expected to read every word from the page, especially if they are only learning to read. The idea is for them to recall the main ideas in the story based on what they have heard you read to them- They may just look for key words and illustrations as clues.
  • Take a Picture Walk. This is great for younger children who are not reading (even as young as 12 months). Work through the book looking at the illustrations for information about the story.
  • Question and Answer Matching Game. Write a list of questions on some flash cards. Write the matching answers on separate flash cards. Lay the answers in front of your child. When you ask a question ask your child to find the matching answer card. You don’t have to use words, you could draw the answers as pictures.

Sequencing/Order of events:

  • Dress up and use props or put on a puppet show to act out the story.
  • Write some sentences from the book on cards (or you could draw pictures that appear in the book). Work with your child to put the cards in order according to how they appear in the story).

Leave a Reply