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NYC Helpline: How To: Work with Students' Families

How to Show Parents How to Have a "Book Talk"  Allison Demas

Part of reading instruction is the “book talk.” A book talk is basically a directed discussion which helps improve the comprehension of a story. Even a non-reader, in fact, especially a non-reader, can benefit from well-managed book talks, as the discussions prompt critical thinking and offer different perspectives on a story. Book talks also teach children how to think about what they are reading.

Overview for Teachers
A book talk requires questions to propel the discussion. However, questions should be thought provoking and they should not limit children’s understanding of a story. There are different types of questions they can ask at different times. Here are a few examples:

Questions for During the Reading

What do you think about the way the characters are acting?
Are they doing the right thing?
Are they doing the wrong thing? Why?
Critical thinking:
Why did something happen?
What do you think is going to happen next? Why?

Connections: Can you think of a time in your life when the same thing that is happening in the story happened to you? How did you feel? How do you think the character feels?

Questions for After the Reading

What was your favorite part? Why?
Who was your favorite character? Why?
What do you think the story is really about?
Do you have any questions?
Is there anything you want to know?

Showing Parents
In order to show parents how to have a beneficial book talk you need to arrange for a parent meeting. As with all parent meetings, arrangements should be made for translations. The translations should take place immediately after each explanation.

Two people will be needed to conduct a demonstration. One person will be the child and the other will be the parent. For the purposes of an easy demonstration you should pick a relatively well-known book, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

You should prepare a script in advance and the presenters should rehearse what will be said. As you present the book talk, you should periodically stop and explain what has occurred. For example, you might explain why a particular question was asked and what the child did to answer it (i.e., connected the story to a situation in his/her own life).

Showing parents how to have a well-managed book talk is an effective way to improve literacy, not to mention a great way to involve parents in their children’s education.


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