Talking about Talking about Books

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“Read to your kids!”

That directive echoes down the halls of every maternity ward, is heard in the waiting rooms of every good pediatrician’s office and is certainly in every school classroom, regardless of the age of a student.

talking 3But that statement packs so much more meaning, and too often the larger message is lost, turning what could be a huge opportunity for discussing how books touch our children’s lives in very direct ways into merely an item to check off a teacher’s schedule before lunch or prior to bedtime for families.

Like any other productive interaction, children learn the most from their own involvement in the conversational give and take around an experience, like a science experiment, an outing to a local farm or hearing a new book. The book or other experience only lights the fuse. The conversation among those who shared the event  or book reading powers the rocket that can take children to new conceptual levels about the world and their places in it.

Further, conversation here is not recitation, i.e., responding to questions to which the leader/reader already knows Talking 1the answers. Conversation is a sharing between two or more individuals about how an experience  impacts them personally. It is an invitation to discuss how an experience was significant to each participant’s personal life.

Little ones may benefit from being “present” for such conversations without ever saying a word. Soon enough they will express themselves to the family group involved, too. Older children can share their contributions, as well as parents while being sensitive to the levels of sophistication in the group. Thus, the discussion should actually be more about the participants than the book or experience itself.

Talking 2For infants and toddlers the experience also should be one in which the focus is all on them. The book has been read, yes, but the focus is on their experience of the book. “What did you think of that?” kinds of questions, while unlikely to generate any real answers early on, will initiate children into assuming the roles they can take when they feel that they have something to say.

In previous blogs, I have suggested that any effort to jump start a discussion about a reading could be initiated by asking questions or offering any statements that elicit each listener’s unique response to a book. That would include sharing of comments or questions about the book’s content, but also about the book’s significance or place in their lives.

That beginning will naturally invoke contributions that are unique to individuals, setting the tone for later answers or responses that come from the heart or spring from personal history.

These reading discussion experiences position completed books not as endings, but as beginnings of lifelong explorations about the world and those in it.

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4 Responses to “Talking about Talking about Books”

  1. Kathleen Randolph August 23, 2018 at 11:33 am #

    As always, Dr Condon shares wisdom that is sorely need for our children today. We need our students actively engaged in the learning experience. If we teach our children to Read, they can do anything. My passion is to help children who struggling with Reading to make it a strength!

    • Mark Condon August 24, 2018 at 9:00 am #

      Thanks, Kathleen! I can think of no better focus than bringing children through the fog and into the enjoyment that books bring.

  2. Carol Lauritzen August 24, 2018 at 8:02 am #

    I appreciate the reminder that although reading the book is a valuable experience, talking about the book is an equally valuable experience. I realize that the books I discuss with others affect me differently than the ones I read alone.

    • Mark Condon August 24, 2018 at 8:58 am #

      Great points, Carol. Thanks for expanding on my humble offering.
      Best to you, lady.