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How to Get the Most out of Reading

Books are more than just words on a page. Help your kids get the most out of reading with these tips and questions.

August 9 is National Book Lovers Day, and September 6 is Read a Book Day. But we should be getting the most out of reading every day. According to the experts at Healthline, regular reading can

  • improve brain connectivity,
  • increase your vocabulary and comprehension,
  • empower you to empathize with other people,
  • aid in sleep readiness,
  • reduce stress,
  • lower blood pressure and heart rate,
  • fight depression symptoms,
  • prevent cognitive decline as you age, and
  • contribute to a longer life.

To get the maximum benefits, you should start reading books early, whatever the genre. But how do you get your kids to love reading, improve their comprehension, and develop critical thinking skills?

Tips to Help Kids Get the Most out of Reading

Just reading does most of the work for you, but that’s only the start. Kids will need a guiding hand to turn reading into an enriching learning experience. Thankfully, reading itself is so enjoyable that this task is no trouble at all. These tips, and the guiding questions and books at the end, will give you the tools your family needs to get the most out of reading.

1. Choose Appropriate Books

Select books that match your kid’s reading level and interests. Books that are slightly challenging but not overwhelming can help your child grow their reading and critical thinking skills.

2. Provide Choices

Let your kids choose what to read. This empowers them and makes reading a more enjoyable experience.

3. Read Together

Read aloud to your kids or have them read to you. This promotes vocabulary development, fluency, and helps them engage with the content.

4. Encourage Questions

Invite your kids to ask questions while reading. This habit encourages curiosity and helps clarify their understanding.

5. Predict and Discuss

Before reading, ask what your kids think the story will be about. During and after reading, discuss their predictions and how the story unfolded.

6. Use Visual Aids

For younger kids, picture books can aid comprehension and visualization of the story. If your kids are past picture books, it might be helpful to start a creative project together. A diorama, poster, storyboard, and other visuals can do a lot for your kid’s comprehension and thinking skills.

7. Ask for Summaries

Have your kids summarize what they’ve read in their own words, which will boost comprehension and retention.

8. Connect to Personal Experiences

Help your kids relate the story to their own lives, which makes the content more meaningful.

9. Discuss Characters

Talk about characters’ feelings, motivations, and actions. This encourages empathy and deeper understanding.

10. Explore New Vocabulary

When your kids encounter new words, discuss their meanings and usage. This will expand their vocabulary.

11. Predict and Infer

Encourage your kids to predict what might happen next and to infer characters’ emotions or motivations.

12. Pause and Reflect

Occasionally pause during reading to reflect on the story’s events, characters, or themes.

13. Explore Themes

Discuss the main ideas or lessons the story conveys. How do these apply to your kids’ lives?

14. Encourage Creative Expression

Have them draw scenes from the book, write a different ending, or create their own story based on the characters.

15. Visit the Library

Regular library visits expose kids to a variety of books and genres, encouraging exploration.

16. Set Reading Goals

Have your kids set achievable reading goals, like finishing a certain number of pages or chapters in a set time. This will motivate your kids to continue reading and give them a sense of satisfaction as they complete each goal.

17. Create a Reading Routine

Set aside a consistent time for reading daily. This establishes reading as a regular habit.

18. Model Reading

Be a reading role model. When they see you enjoying books, they’re likely to follow suit.

19. Celebrate Achievements

Celebrate milestones, like finishing a book, to motivate and create positive associations with reading.

20. Join or Start a Book Club

If they’re older, consider forming a family book club or encouraging them to join one at school or the community.

Questions to Ask Kids about Their Reading

Comprehension is key to getting the most out of reading. And the best way to increase comprehension is to ask your kids questions about their reading. You can choose from the questions below to give your kids a more enriching reading experience. Each question is meant to help your kids to develop critical thinking and reading skills that will help them throughout their lives.

What Does the Title and Cover Tell You?

Before reading, ask your kids to look at the cover and title and make predictions about what the book might be about.

Who Are the Main Characters?

Encourage your kids to describe the main characters’ traits, personalities, and feelings.

What’s the Problem in the Story?

Help your kids identify the main challenge or conflict the characters face.

Where and When Does the Story Take Place?

Discuss the setting of the story and how it affects the characters and plot.

What Happened in the Beginning, Middle, and End?

Have your kids summarize what happened in these three parts of the story to understand the structure.

What Was Your Favorite Part and Why?

Encourage your kids to share their favorite scenes and explain what they enjoyed about them.

What Would You Do in the Characters’ Shoes?

Ask your kids to think about how they would react if they were in the characters’ situations.

Did the Characters Change? How?

Discuss whether the characters learned something or grew during the story.

What Do You Think Will Happen Next?

Prompt your kids to make predictions about what might happen after the story ends.

What Did You Learn from the Book?

Encourage your kids to think about any lessons or messages they took away from the story.

Can You Describe the Problem-Solving?

Ask your kids to explain how the characters in the story solved their problems. Were there creative solutions?

What Would You Change in the Story?

Encourage your kids to think about how they might change certain events, characters, or outcomes to make the story different.

What Do You Like About the Author’s Writing?

Help your kids notice the author’s writing style. Do they use interesting words or descriptions?

Can You Compare This Book to Another You’ve Read?

Have your kids draw comparisons between the current book and a previous one. How are the characters, themes, or writing styles similar or different?

What Questions Do You Still Have?

Prompt your kids to think about any lingering questions they have after finishing the book. This could spark curiosity and encourage them to seek answers.

Why We Read

Road signs, mail, social media—wherever we live in the world, reading is a huge part of our lives. It isn’t only a necessary skill but a learning tool, a cognitive aid, and a healthy hobby. The more you do it and the more intentional you are about it, the greater the benefits. This is why schools set reading goals for students and do their best to help kids keep learning and growing their reading and vocabulary skills. But schools can’t do it alone. As parents, if we can give our kids only one thing, let’s give them a love for reading. Reading for just ten minutes every day and following these tips to increase comprehension and critical thinking skills will propel our kids forward in both learning and life.

Books That Boost Learning

Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.

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