Question To Ask Your Children to Help Them Understand What They Read
Children, especially young children who are just learning to read, can often say the words on the page but when asked questions about the story, or the information book, demonstrate that they have no understanding of what they have just read. Often they can be so busy using all their mental energy trying to decode each word that they simply lose the meaning.
Asking a few pertinent questions before, during and after reading will allow you to judge your child’s understanding of what he/she is about to read, is reading or has read.
Questions to ask your children before reading
Before reading a picture book it is worthwhile discussing the following briefly with your child. This provides an orientation to the book and provides the child with some idea of what he/she might find when the story is being read.
- Ask, “What is ‘title’ of the book?”
- Ask “What do we mean by the ‘author’ or ‘illustrator’ of a book and can we find their names on the front cover of the book?”
(If they are too young to do this point out the words on the front cover that provide the name of the title, author and/or illustrator and explain what these people do.)
- Ask, “By looking at the picture on the front cover and thinking about the book’s title what do you think the story, (or book, if it is an information book) will be about?”
- Talk with your child about how the title and the picture on the front cover are related
- Go through the book just looking at only the pictures and discuss them with your child. Ask, “By looking at the pictures what do you think might happen in the story?”
For older children, who have moved into reading chapter books it is a good idea to explain what we mean by a book ‘blurb’ – what is written on the back cover that gives us an idea of what the story is about – and encourage them to read the blurb to get a little glimpse of the book before reading all of it.
Questions to ask your children during reading
It is a good idea to pause now and again throughout the reading of a story to make sure your child is understanding what he/she is reading. You do not have to do this at the end of every page as this can be very frustrating for the child who wants to get on with the story.
You might ask questions about the setting of the story, or each character, or how they feel about a particular character as the story unfolds.
At the end of a page or an episode in the story you might ask, “What do you think will happen next?”
Questions to ask your children after reading
After a story, or information book, has been read you might like to use SOME of the following sentence starters to make up questions to determine whether your child can REMEMBER, and does he/she UNDERSTAND, what has been read.
- What happened after …?
- How many …?
- Who was it that …?
- Can you name …?
- Describe what happened at …?
- Who spoke to …?
- Can you tell me why …?
- Find the meaning of …?
- What is …?
- Which is true or false …?
- How is …?
- When did … happen?
- How did … happen?
- How would you explain …?
- Why did …?
- How would you describe …?
- When did …?
- Can you recall …?
- How would you show …?
- Can you select …?
- Who were the main …?
- Can you list three things …?
- Which one …?
- Who was …?
- Can you tell me or write in your own words …?
- Can you write a brief outline of …?
- What do you think could have happened next …?
- Who do you think …?
- What was the main idea …?
- Who was the key character …?
- Can you distinguish between …?
- What differences exist between …?
- Can you provide an example of what you mean …?
- Can you provide a definition of …?
- How would you classify the type of …?
- How would you compare …?
- How would you contrast …?
- State or interpret … in your own words
- How could you rephrase the meaning of …?
- The facts or ideas show …?
- What is the main idea of …?
- Which statement supports …?
- Can you explain what is happening when …?
- Can you explain what is meant by …?
- What can you say about …?
- Which is the best answer …?
- How would you summarise …?
Using these questions to ask your children will help to give a better understanding of how well they have understood the content of what they read.
View our Guide for Parents to help you increase your learners’ literacy skills.
She holds a Public Service Medal for her contributions to education.
Shirley has written a comprehensive Guide for Parents to help support children’s literacy in the home and social environment.