Reading bedtime stories with your children is one of the best things you can do to improve their cognition, memory, and academic skills. However, parents sometimes forget to be interactive with children when reading. The more interactive you are, the more you can build these skills.
Unfortunately, parents do not always know how to do that. Below are a few of the ways you can help your children think about their reading and have fun at the same time!.
I just finished watching News of the World, with Tom Hanks. (I mean he is the star, I wasn’t watching it with him!) It is the story of a man who goes from town to town 150 years ago and reads the newspapers to people who can’t read. It made me think of how we read to our children at bedtime.
Bedtime stories are an underutilized way of improving a child’s reading comprehension, higher order thinking and meta cognition skills. Developing a series of simple questions will enable them to practice and develop reading skills including empathy, comparison, summarizing, and prediction skills at all ages.
Below we highlight 14 Questions that are for the most part suitable for all ages. They can be scaffolded to become more complex or easier depending on the age of your children. Even during bedtime you can still be teaching them!
You can also find a good list of bedtime stories (classics and modern) here.
Bedtime stories are all about connection, relaxation and fun but that is not to say you can slip a little education in there as well. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. Spend a couple of minutes looking through the bedtime stories you read with your children and then think of a could of question you could ask about the stories.
What asking questions during Storytime is not, is a test, children have WAY to many of those without bringing them to bedtime. What is is does is make bedtime stories interactive, and fun. Children can imagine themselves in the story, and change the outcome depending on their actions.
This will bring a deeper involvement in the bedtime story, and as a welcome side effect will help them develop reading comprehension skills, as well as interaction and social skills as well. What are you waiting for! grab a book and go 😛
We have 14 questions to help you get started, but they are not definite, however they are generic enough to be used in most books and will get you off to a great start!
1. Ask About What They See
Ask your children about what they see on the page. This gets children thinking about the text in more than one way. For instance, if there are photos or pictures, the child must consider how they relate to the story or information. Likewise, even if it is a novel with few pictures at all, changes in text/ font, paragraph length, dialogue, and bold words can give clues as to what is happening in the book.
2. Recap the Bedtime Story
If this is a book that is being read over several days, ask your child to recap previous days. For instance, if you are reading a novel and are on chapter ten, you might ask your child what has already happened. This exercise triggers recall as well as discrimination of information. Your child will have to decide which information is essential and which is not.
This is a great reading skill, and encourages children to listen to the story not just the soothing sound of your voice!
3. Predict and Preview the Bedtime Story
Ask your child what they think will happen or what can be assumed by looking at what they see. This activity will go along with asking what they see. They will look at pictures, text clues and consider what they already know about the book. Make predictions before you begin reading.
You can couple this with the recap questions for longer books. As you are reading, revisit the preview, and adjust your predictions. Make new predictions if you think the previous ones are wrong. Be sure to stop and ask about new predictions when something affects earlier predictions.
4. Motives of the Characters
When characters do something big in a story, ask why you think they made their choice. This allows children to consider why people make choices, and it helps to develop empathy. They will learn to consider others’ motives and reasons before making judgments. You can ”think out loud” to demonstrate this to you children. They will certainly offer their opinions as well!
5. What Would They Do?
Ask children to talk about what choices they might make. Just as asking about character choices, ask why they would make these decisions. Ask them what they think the outcome would be if the character made the choice they would. You can also ask why they think the character did not make that choice.
This allows them to use their own schema, or own priorities and put themselves in the story. Don’t worry if they say something like they would have kicked Cinderella in the head and run off with the prince. It also develops imagination!!!
6. Do You Like the Main Character?
While this question might seem silly, asking how they feel about characters might help them decide what makes a person likable, but they also might consider why they feel that way about the character. You can also ask if the main character reminds them of someone else.
You can add to this with why they like or don’t like, and let them develop knowledge of traits that are important to them.
7. Would You Want to Live There?
Ask your child if they would want to live where the story takes place. Why would they? Or why wouldn’t they? What do they think they would like about that location. If the location is similar to their current hometown, get them to explain why or how.
8. How Does the Character Feel?
This is a great question to ask children about all of the characters. In a scene where many characters are interacting, ask how the most active characters are feeling. However, if it is a scene between only a few characters, let your child consider everyone’s feelings. you can introduce both empathy and reasoning with these type of questions.
9. How Would You Feel?
If this happened to you, how would you feel? This is a great question to ask young students who are struggling with feelings. Additionally, older students can also benefit from considering how others’ actions might affect them if they were involved.
Ask them how they would deal with those feelings, what can they and the characters do about it.
10. What Do You Still Wonder About?
At the end of the book, we sometimes have questions. Ask your child what he or she is still wondering about. Are there things the author left up to the reader to decide? Is there a sequel that will answer questions? Have your child consider what they feel has not been answered yet.
11. What’s the Point of the Story?
Asking about the author’s purpose or theme of a story might help children understand why characters behaved as they did. This can drive empathy. It can also help children consider whether the story is teaching them something or merely entertaining them.
Although this might be more difficult for younger learners you can certainly scaffold this down, ask ask if they know of other stories like it, and if they learnt anything from it.
12. Is There Anything That You Do Not Understand?
At any point in a story, you might ask if there is something they do not understand. This is especially important for texts with difficult words, old-fashioned dialects, or unfamiliar terms. Helping children figure out these answers early can make the story more enjoyable. This can be an ongoing exercise, and depending how much you want them to sleep, you can ask them how they will find out the answers.
Asking your child questions during bedtime stories should not be a chore. Ask them to interact with you and help you see the story from another perspective. Make the questions natural and comfortable. Don’t make it seem so much like a language arts lesson. You can help your child improve comprehension of reading material and build life skills simultaneously.
Bedtime reading, as we said in the quote above is about connections and fun. All of these tasks should be part of that. If it turns into a lesson, with right and wrong answers then it is is counter productive. All steps, including small steps still get you to the destination!
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Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, English, General Studies and Outdoor Education. Thought it was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children