Reading to learn: how to get the most from reading with your children

Father and daughter reading together
Reading with your children at home not only lets them practise new words and sounds, but it can also help to improve their reading comprehension skills. Education writer and primary teacher Phoebe Doyle gives her top tips on helping to enrich reading time to prepare them for KS1 English SATs.

Most schools recommend that you have your child read to you every day. While – in theory –  I couldn’t be more keen on this idea, as a busy parent of two I know – in reality – this is incredibly tricky if not impossible!

That said, learning how to improve upon the time you do get to hear them read, or even when you’re reading to them, can really help them with their literacy at school – especially when Key Stage 1 SATS are looming.

An important aspect of the English SATs is reading comprehension, when your child reads to a teacher or teaching assistant, and they are asked questions around the story. Doing the same at home will not only prepare them for this specifically, but is generally a great habit to get into as it will help turn them into enthusiastic, critical, mindful readers who enjoy and appreciate stories on an intellectual level.

Below are some questions to get you started. Once you get used to incorporating such questions into the routine, they’ll come naturally!

Questions while selecting a book:

• Why did you want to read this book?
• Do you like the book cover? What do you like about it?
• Have you read any other books by this author?
• Is the author also the illustrator of this book?
• What do you think this book might be about?

Questions prior to reading the book:

• What is the title of this book?
• Who are the author and illustrator?
• Does the picture on the cover give us any clues as to what the story might be about?
• (Read the blurb on the back of the book together.) What clues does this give us? Does it sound like an exciting/sad/happy story?

Questions while reading the book:

• What has happened so far? What do you think might happen next?
• What can you see in the pictures? Are they helping to tell the story?
• Which character is your favourite? How would you describe them?
• How would you feel if that happened to you?

Plot questions after reading the book:

• What happened in the beginning?
• What happened next?
• What happened at the end of the story?
• At what point in the story did we realise….?

Character questions:

• What do we learn about X in the beginning of the story?
• What do we know about X by the end of the story?
• Who are the main characters in the story? Would you like to be any of the characters? If so, why?
• How would you feel if you were X at that part of the story?
• What would you have done if you were X?
• What are some of the words the author has used to describe the character?
• How did X feel when… ?
• Does X remind you of anyone you know? If so, why?

Appreciation questions:

• Did you enjoy this story?
• Did the illustrations help you to enjoy and understand the story?
• Did it remind you of any other stories we’ve read together? What were the similarities?
• What did you like/dislike the most?
• Did any parts of the story make you laugh? Why?
• Which was your favourite bit? Why?
• Were there any words or sentences in the book that you particularly enjoyed?
• Were any of the words written in capital letters/bold/italics? If so, why?
• Would you like to read another book by this author?
• Did the story remind you of anything that has happened to you?

Words and concepts to introduce and use when reading stories with your child:

  • Author
  • Illustrator
  • Blurb
  • Publisher
  • Title
  • Illustrations
  • Phrases
  • Sentences
  • Character
  • Beginning
  • Middle
  • End
  • Fiction
  • Story-starts
  • Describing
  • Emotion words (e.g., scared, exciting, shocking)

Learn more about creating a reading-friendly home to encourage your child to pick up and read a new book, and find out 10 ways that you can bring books to life for your child.