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What kinds of questions do your kids ask you? What topics do they find compelling?

Parents commonly joke about the torrent of often hilarious or troubling questions that children ask. We laugh about their wide-eyed curiosity and endless stream of “Why?” We marvel at their very serious interest and need to know about everything.

Children learn to ask questions from adults and from the kinds of questions we ask of them. We provide the platform for them to consider the power and potential of questions they can ask.

If we only ask children questions that have “correct” answers (as defined by us), it teaches them to respond with what they think we want to hear, and squelches real conversation and reflection. On the other hand, if we ask them questions that encourage reflection and genuinely invite their thoughts, it teaches them deep inquiry skills. They will grow intellectually from asking simple questions to asking chain questions–from “Yeah, but..?” to “So, does that mean…?”

How do children learn to initiate their own investigations, explore personal interests, and expand individual talents and expertise? I believe it’s the nature of their own ever-present questions that guides their lives as lifelong learners and leads them into a rich intellectual life of experiencing themselves, the world’s wonders, and the people in it with enriching depth. 

Chief among the resources that can contribute to the intellectual and information growth of youngsters, and to an enduring zeal in pursuing their own curiosities, are books and the people who use books to share their own expanding understandings and possibilities. Books are sprinkled in front of our lives by authors, experts and the creative minds of men and women who have asked their own questions over time and who have decided to share the stories and information they have explored and accumulated. When teachers, parents and friends share their experiences with books, they create a web of social and educational connections.

The magic of books, of course, is in the combined simplicity of their design and the dizzying kinds of complexity of the information and language that authors craft into presenting their riches to the world. Writers and artists do this through paper, ink and digital formats. Their creations generously offer children answers to their individual questions and inspire their complex wonderings within social groupings. 

When a young child observes someone deep into reading and asks the question of “What’re you doing?” and the reader thoughtfully responds, inviting more questions, the door to that child’s lifelong literacy opens.

Us seasoned readers must put our arms around these curious kids and accept our roles in leading them into discovering how books and learning can expand our lives. We must take seriously our job of reading to and with children, allowing them to ask all the questions they have and then engaging in the delightful conversations that will follow.

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