How to Talk to Kids About Books You Haven’t Read

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How to Talk to Kids About Books You Haven’t Read

A fellow Sonlighter recently asked about her children's habit of reading ahead of the Sonlight schedule.

“How can I test my children’s comprehension when they are reading ahead of the IG? Do I need to cover each discussion question to be successful?”

The discussion questions in your Instructor’s Guide are there to help you gauge if your children are understanding and retaining what they are reading.

You do not have to ask every question in the guide to help your kids successfully absorb the material. If your children are reading ahead, they are likely ingesting the content and hungry for more. That’s a good sign.

If you feel that going back over weeks of questions could be more stilted and formal than helpful, here are a few sneaky ideas to reach your goal of testing comprehension without its feeling like a test.

Your book discussions can flow more naturally when you try these strategies.

Let Your Child Take the Lead

If you have students who are reading ahead in Readers or History, you can have them check in with you and lead the conversation to tell you about what they are reading. By allowing them to steer the conversation to what was most interesting to them, you may get an even better idea of what they gleaned from the reading.

If you have the discussion questions in front of you for this little meeting, you can use them to help jog your child’s memory on the topic and as a reference to ensure they are retaining and understanding the most vital points. Chatting about the latest read over popcorn is highly recommended to boost the fun level of the book discussion.

Use the Questions as a Bookmark

All of the discussion questions for the Read-Alouds are in one section of the IG, divided by book. Some parents like to pull out the page of questions for just the story they are on and use it as a bookmark. Always handy!

Ask Open-ended Questions

Beyond the questions provided in your Guide, you can quickly get an idea if your child is absorbing material from the readers by asking a few open-ended questions that could work for any book they are reading, whether you’ve read it or not.

You can ask these at dinner or while washing dishes and make it feel like a mini book club discussion. You are drawing out opinions and ideas more than trying to get your kids to give a “right” answer. Here are some examples you could choose from:

  • Which character did you identify with most?
  • What do you want to remember most about this story?
  • What is something that is similar (or different) about the world in the story you are reading and our society today?
  • How did the time period affect the plot of this story?
  • What message do you think the author was trying to get across?
  • What character was the most (fill in the blank with the adjective of your choice … determined, noble, charming, loyal, deceptive, etc.)?
  • Would this story make a good movie?
  • What was a difficult choice someone had to make in this story?

Asking, “Tell me more about that,” can help your conversation flow instead of feeling like a drill. I love getting unexpected insight from my kids by simply chewing on some of the Sonlight books together at our leisure. Our goal is not checking the box but creating life-long learners and modeling that for our kids.

Avoid the Issue by Providing More Books

Kids who are hungry to read is a great problem to have! In fact, you are likely to discover that Sonlight turns kids into readers. So satiate the appetite of a voracious reader to reduce too much reading ahead.

Provide additional books to read for fun outside of school assignments. Sonlight Summer Readers and other great books displayed on an easy-to-reach shelf can keep their brains on books and help you keep pace with your discussion questions more easily. Then you can slow your school reading and take time to savor the Sonlight books together. You may find the discussion questions in your IG feel just right when you are hitting closer to your scheduled pace.

It’s important to remember that you are not only transferring information to your kids through books, but bonding together by sharing them. No matter when or how you talk about these great books together, you can make great memories diving into stories side by side. 

Find out more about how Sonlight can give your children a hunger to learn. You’ll love having delightful learning planned out for you. Try the first three weeks of any Instructor’s Guide for free

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