How—and WHY—to Book Talk with Your Child by Melanie Conklin
Talking about books with your child signals that reading is important. And not just that—your interest in what your child is reading reinforces their interest in reading as well. Think about the last time you read a book you loved (or hated). Did you talk with other people about it? Your mom? Your book club? The answer is probably yes! Those of us who love reading can’t help but talk about the books that connect with us in one way or another. Talking about books after we’ve read them only makes us love them more!
It’s no different for younger readers, minus one small detail: they may not have learned how to talk about books yet, or may lack the confidence to start the conversation. But it’s a solid bet that your young reader has questions, hopes, and concerns swirling around inside their head after a reading experience the very same way that you do. The key is to get them talking in a way that’s fun for both you and them.
Book Talk is a great way to encourage young readers to share and grow in their reading experience. Chances are your reader spends a fair bit of time at school discussing the comprehensive aspects of reading (setting, character, story, voice), so at home, it’s a good idea to focus on their connection with the story. If you revisit that initial flush of joy that you experience when reading a story, you cement those connections in your mind, and often make them even stronger.
We do this by re-connecting. Every instance of shared enthusiasm over a book builds the love for reading and the desire to seek out another satisfying reading experience. When I Book Talk with my boys, I usually start with humor because that’s what works best for them. I’ll ask: Did anything funny happen? Often, this is the easiest way to spark a conversation, and soon we’re laughing about the goofy parts of their recent reads and talking over each other in our excitement. But humor isn’t the only door to discussion. There are a wide range of questions and prompts that will get your young reader talking, such as:
— What was the most exciting part of the book?
— Are you worried about any of the characters?
— Did anything surprise you in the story/chapter?
— Did anything happen exactly the way you expected?
— Who do you like in the story? Who do you not like?
— What was the saddest part of the story?
— Does this part of the story remind you of anything that’s happened to you?
— What would you do if you were in that situation?
— Would you recommend this book to your friends?
These kinds of questions reinforce the connections that your child is already making with their reading. When we first read a story, there is a rush of engagement that makes reading a satisfying personal experience, but taking the time to Book Talk after they’ve read will make reading a fun social activity as well.
The bonus? Talking about feelings, reactions, and connections to stories helps young readers develop a library of emotions that they can use in their everyday lives.
Today’s kidlit explores a wide range of subjects and situations, often tackling tough topics like anxiety, loss, fear, and death. The beauty of kidlit is that it offers a safe space for young readers to process their connections to these topics. When you can explore books on an emotional level, you bond with that story and those characters, and come out better prepared for your own life experiences. Book Talk is a bridge to making that connection, and to growing a love of books that will last a lifetime.
Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and life-long lover of books and those who create them. She writes about those tough topics in life, and the incredible resilience of hope. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs. Counting Thyme is her debut middle grade novel, coming from G.P. Putnam’s Sons on April 12, 2016. You can connect with Melanie at www.melanieconklin.com or on Twitter @MLConklin.