Dear Family,

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Dear Parents, Siblings and Family Members,

  1. Reading a book for a younger child? Excellent.
  2. Asking your kiddo to retell the story? Sure, if that’s fun.Book Conversation 3
  3. Quizzing the little one on particulars of a story or informational text? Uhhhhh, No.

Each of the above might be seen as a way to support a child’s developing literacy and anything that would do that is hard to criticize. However, for the sake of the relationship between the child, you as a family member and books, I’d discourage getting too “school-y” in your interchanges.

If that has to be done, leave it to teachers who, while they might want a close relationship with the child, don’t have to be trusted and admired the way a parent or older sibling should be.

It is critical for children to trust their older siblings and the adults in their families. They also need to be able to invite silliness and play with their various family members. Additionally, children need to be encouraged, led and helped to ask hard questions of Book Conversation 6someone they can rely upon to take them seriously and give them straight answers.

The purposes of family members sharing books together are many, but preparing for a quiz should not be a common expectation. In virtually any book that gets shared there is an opportunity to broach subjects that are deep and wide, and maybe even feel risky. Really good books all include openings for that kind of conversation, carried along with the enjoyment of the plot or exposition. The key point here is the necessity of mining good books for guiding children into unfolding maturity of inquiry and exploration.

If that sounds lofty, don’t worry! It doesn’t take special training to do. The simplest strategy is for the older family member to either comment on how the book touches their personal history or life experience, or to inquire how the book offers the youngster something to relate to and connect with. For example, if Dad shares a book about a child and his dog and then shares his own experiences with dogs and asks his daughter to share how she feels about dogs, that serves as an invitation to the youngster to make her own connections. The magic of providing such a demonstration is not in the recounting of that particular memory, but in establishing that, at their very best, books can serve as a springboard to share ourselves and offer us a chance to learn about others right here and right now.

Little girl talking seriously with her father lying on bedSuch simple inquiries, not about the book specifically, but about natural life connections that the child might make with the book, are really less about reading than about the child. The kids are the real subject of that cozy time together.

The book will remain the same after it is read. With our help, each child will grow and change.


Mark C.


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