How to Discuss Stories with Children

Question: In a recent column, you suggested that parents should discuss with their preschoolers the stories they read to them. My children and I have never really talked about stories. How can we get started doing this? Why is it so important? - Likes to Read

Answer: Talking with young children about stories helps parents find out how well their children listen and remember what they hear. In addition, when you select a book that conveys a message, you will be able to talk to your children about whether or not it agrees with your family's view of life. Plus, talking about stories is a great way to improve children's speaking skills and increase their vocabularies.

Discussing stories with young children should always be a friendly, relaxed conversation. It should never be a quiz over what has been read to them. For example, if you have just read "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss, you might want to connect this to your child's life by talking about the color eggs he or she eats. Or, if you read "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," you might want to initiate a conversation about what porridge is and whether your child might like it for breakfast.

Reading should always be the major focus of story time with your children. Don't eclipse it by spending too much time talking about each story. Here are some questions to ask your children that might make talking about books with them easier:

  • Do you think this story could really happen? Why or why not?
  • Did you think a certain event in the story was funny or sad?
  • Would you like to be friends with a character in the story?
  • If you were the major character in the story, what would you have done differently?
  • Would you like to be able to do something the hero of the story did?