Question Kids on the Case!
Helping your kids develop questions for reading comprehension
You know the drill, parents. When children start to talk, after declarations like “No!” and “Up!” come the onslaught of questions. What is lady doing? Where go sun? Why…EVERYTHING!
I’ve observed many parent-child question interactions in the library over the years, but my favorite happened in the bathroom. A young (and query-focused) child had many questions about the sink and the footstool. His parent answered them all with patience and care. And then, looking at the new paper towel contraption that spit out towels with the wave of a hand, he asked: “How do it do that?”
The parent stopped, thought about it, and instead of giving a long answer about motion sensors and other science-y things, answered, “Magic!”
I’m here to tell you there’s a germ of truth in that answer: Asking questions is magic in literacy development and, later, reading comprehension.
When you help your children become “Question Kids” – open to asking questions because you patiently answer them as best you can – you are doing much more than responding to them in the moment. You are developing their capacity to think, wonder and expand their knowledge while reading.
What are some ways that you can support this question-making behavior?
1. Ask many questions yourself, particularly about books you are reading together.
The five main question words to use are “What?” “When?” “How?” “Where?” and “Why?” You can even write down these words on a post-it note to yourself and see how many times you can use each question word as you read.
2. Look at a picture and write questions together.
This is particularly good when you are exploring a nonfiction topic together and already have some basic knowledge about the topic. For example, find a picture of a three-toed sloth. Questions you can write (especially if you’ve already read about sloths) include “Why do sloths hang upside down?” and “How often do sloths move?” and “Where do sloths live?”
3. Give a question word and a topic and see if your child can come up with a question.
Remember those five question words? Play a game with your child and see if they can create questions with just a question word and a topic. “What/my birthday” – “What are we going to do for my birthday?” “How/Grandma’s house” – “How will we get to Grandma’s house?”
Some great question-based children’s books to help:
The Owl Who Asks Why written by Michelle Garcia Andersen and illustrated by Ayesha Rubio. Owls usually ask “Who?”, but in this book, Little Owl actually wants to ask “Why?” while Little Wolf really wants to know “When?” This lightly philosophical story underscores that all questions are valid.
Ask Me written by Bernard Waber and illustrated by Suzy Lee. A great model for parents about the ease of asking and answering questions with children! (It’s also a lovely and gentle story with beautiful illustrations.)
That’s How! written and illustrated by Christoph Niemann. See if you can stop laughing at these imaginative guesses about how different vehicles work.