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Books -- A Lifelong Conversation

The new year is right around the corner, so it's time to start thinking about New Year's Resolutions, people!  And I'm hoping some of yours include a topic near and dear to my librarian heart -- books!  Today's blog is the first in a series of posts to help you add a book-related resolution to your list.

I'm guessing that, if you're reading a library blog, you are a promoter of books in your home.  You make sure that your kids and/or students always have books at their disposal.  And you are probably a frequent visitor to Hoover Public Library.  But have you considered taking your book game to the next level?  Do you want to really engage with your kids about the books they're reading?  Here are some tips for starting a lifelong conversation about books.  They were shared by Brightly.

TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS
1. Point and ask. Toddlers are unabashed know-it-alls. Stop mid-story and ask them to name objects and colors. It may seem distracting, but it’s vital for language development.

2. Make a prediction. At this age, you can simply ask, “What happens next?” They’ve undoubtedly heard the story enough times to know, and repetition won’t bother a 3-year-old. This is the basis of story arc.

3. Pause — and let them fill the silence. With Goodnight Moon, for example, just say, “three little bears / sitting in…” and your little one will undoubtedly say “Chairs!” This works especially well with rhyming books.

4. Make real-life connections.  If you’re reading Mo Willem’s Knuffle Bunny for the umpteenth time, you can say, “Trixie has blonde hair. What color is your hair?” “Trixie’s lovey is called Knuffle Bunny. What is your lovey called?”

5. Keep the story going. Bring book characters into playtime. Really, it’s as simple as, “You be George; I’ll be the Man in the Yellow Hat.” And then see what happens. This kind of creative play helps children work over all the elements of storytelling — and you’ll get a nice glimpse at how their minds work, what details they think are important, and when they might go rogue.

SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN
6. Discuss difficult words. If your child is reading to you, it’s easy to stop and talk about words that are above their pay grade. Bring in the dictionary. Talk about words you are confused about, too — it makes it okay for her to not know.

7. Make the questions personal. At this stage, it’s time to move beyond basic plot-based questions like, “What do you think happens next?” You can invite them to engage a little more personally with the book, to see themselves in a situation. “What would you have done differently?” Explore how their motivations may be different from what’s on the page.

8. Compare and contrast. Early readers love book series, and series easily lend themselves to comparison. How was this book different from the last one you read?

9. Avoid the book report questions. There are many well-meaning lists of questions to ask young readers, with totally reasonable inquiries like, “What was the most exciting part?” “What was the saddest part?” and “Were you surprised by anything? Why?” If what you want is a true dialogue with your child, where you understand their point of view and help them see yours, the questions should go deeper and be more intimate.

10. Make connections to the real world. As the books they read become more complex, you can discuss more complex ideas — even tough concepts like death or prejudice. This is when the conversations get really interesting and fun.

11. Just riff. Especially if you’re reading aloud or reading together, conversation is easy. The unplanned, stream-of-consciousness discussions are the most authentic and most likely to be engaging.

MIDDLE SCHOOLERS AND BEYOND
12. Read what they read. Even if you aren’t reading aloud or side by side, you can stay on top of what they’re thinking about by putting your nose in the same book — whether it’s comics, fantasy, or YA. You can’t offer insight or critique if you haven’t cracked the spine.

13. Stay authentic. The best conversations are knit together by the interests and points of view you share with your child — and where you differ. Share opinions, but as my daughter says, “Don’t yuck my yum.” 

14. Don’t judge. Your child is developing his own worldview, trying on personas and values that didn’t necessarily spring up underneath your roof. That’s important — and good. Don’t squelch an opportunity to engage by dismissing your child’s take on a book or character as wrong or bad. You’re missing out on an opportunity to see how she or he ticks.

15. You be you — a reader. Bring your passion for books to the table, and let them learn by watching what you do. Read voraciously. Talk about the people, places, and things in your books. Be engaged — and you’ll engage them.

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Katiem