How to

Exploring stories with children to increase reading comprehension

Settling down with your children and a storybook is an excellent way to get to know one another and to have an enjoyable and satisfying time together. Exploring a story is much more than just reading the words on a page – it’s about taking a journey together as you think and talk about the pictures, events and ideas in the book. A story can be like a treasure chest – full of wonders and surprises!

There is no one correct way to experience a story and that’s what makes stories so powerful!  Here are ten different ways to explore stories with children.

1. Read with as much expression as you can. You may feel a little odd about doing this in the beginning, but your audience will appreciate it as it helps to bring the story to life!

2. Being able to predict what comes next is an important part of being able to read successfully. As you read, help develop your children’s prediction skills by asking, “What do you think will happen next?”

3.  If children want to look closely at illustrations and point to particular details, it’s good to pause for a while to allow this. You can also ask them to comment on the illustrations or to find particular people or objects in the pictures, for example: “Where’s the dog? Why do you think he’s hiding there?”

4. Deepen your children’s understanding of a story by asking open-ended questions. These kinds of questions have no right or wrong answers and they help children to think and talk about stories. For example: “How wouldyou feel if …?”, “If you were him, what would you have done?”, “Why do you think she did that?”, “What does that remind you of?”, “What do you do when …?” You might want to ask some of these questions as you read a story, while other questions can be discussed after you have finished reading. Talking about stories in these ways helps children to understand how stories work – another essential literacy skill!

5. Let children ask questions too! Answer their questions or look for the answers together by re-reading the relevant parts of the story. Sometimes, if it feels as though your children are asking so many questions that the flow of the story is being interrupted, you can say, “Let’s read on and find out, shall we?” and continue reading!

6. Share some of your own thoughts about the characters and events in the story with your children – this will enrich their thinking.

7. Look for interesting ways in which the author has used particular words or phrases. Point these out to your children and talk about them together.

8. Sometimes when you have finished reading a book together, ask your children what they liked about it and if there is anything they wished was different.

9. Find other ways for children to continue to explore the story. For example: retelling and acting out the story, or one of their own; drawing a picture about the story, or one inspired by it; creating a puppet show, or writing to one of the story characters.

10. And lastly, read it again! Children often like to have their favourite stories re-read to them. Each time they listen to a story they are able to discover something new and they will also be absorbing lessons about language, vocabulary and concepts.