One evening, she chose a book about the solar system. The book dedicated a double-page spread to each planet and when we got to the end, DeShawn looked up at me and said, “Is that all the planets? What about the third world? I keep hearing about the third world on the TV.”
I was so proud of her question. She’d thought she’d known where to look for an answer—in a book about planets. When she didn’t find it, she was comfortable questioning what we’d read.
Lots of kids won’t ask questions. But to develop knowledge and build critical thinking skills, kids have to know how to ask questions and be able to communicate what they are thinking and understanding. Support them by:
• Modeling conversation skills and by asking good open-ended questions
• Reflecting on your own personal experiences and connections to information and text
• Sharing your own knowledge and asking kids related questions about their experiences
• Giving kids time to think before asking questions or answering yours
• Listening carefully and thoughtfully to what they have to ask and say
Listening carefully to DeShawn’s question about where to find the third world, I knew an answer of “in the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America” was not going to be helpful to her. A globe, an atlas, and several magazine and newspaper articles later, DeShawn was satisfied. And so was I. Her one question had turned into deeper knowledge of the world and got us exploring texts we’d never considered before.
Reading and listening to informational text can definitely help kids develop knowledge of the world, which in turn, will help strengthen their comprehension skills. What DeShawn and I learned is that while informational text is a type of nonfiction, it can be found in lots of places besides nonfiction books. Newspapers, magazines, brochures, and websites have interesting informational reading that answers questions kids are curious about and helps prepare them for life.
You can bet that if something is in the news, kids have heard about it, but often have little understanding. Some issues may not be appropriate for you to discuss with kids that aren’t your own, but knowing that those questions are out there, you can help them start building the knowledge they need to ask their questions and understand the answers.
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