Conversation is a basic source of learning that children use for thinking about families, experiences and the world. Often, meaningful conversations begin with questions. Conversations that ensue from questions they are asked are a their first lessons in language and thinking.
“How are you doing today?”
“How did this morning’s rain shower make you feel?”
“How did you decide to wear that shirt with those shorts?
Simple questions initiate human interactions and reflection. Yes, a huge part of anyone’s education is learning to answer questions, but perhaps more important is to learn to clearly ask for opinions and information from others.
The practice of asking questions sets the path forward for those wishing to learn something simple or for analyzing life’s complexities. Therefore, it must be made clear very early on that each of us is responsible for the expansion of our own understandings about the world and the daily experiences we encounter.
What’s most important here though is that questions must ultimately come from children as they take charge of their learning about the world and its inhabitants. It’s the older child’s, parent’s or teacher’s leadership that helps small children to formulate, ask, and pursue the answers to their own wonderings. It’s the child’s first lesson that s/he is in charge of the topic of conversation about the world or for arranging demonstrations of the most productive and rewarding actions to take in making that world their own.
The complexity of questions that kids hear motivate them to inquire into their very own interests and discoveries. That’s why books in the home are so important–books ask good questions of the children listening and reading about their worlds, expanding all around them. Books also offer launching pads for new experiences and ideas, inspiring new questions posed to the world. Furthermore, books can bring all of the physical and social world into the solid predictability of family life, to be wondered about, asked about and analyzed.
So where does all of this questioning and book reading intersect with education? I believe it’s the place where children who are question askers, conversationalists and social and intellectual risk takers take charge of their own learning out in the big world, where family is no longer a required ingredient.
Children who are used to asking and discussing questions that help them understand what is around them will quickly find joy in the opportunities offered in classrooms–real or virtual.