Chapter 15: Right From the Start

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What is reading?

That seems like a simple enough question, right? Reading is looking at a group of letters and saying the word that those letters represent. But looking at those letters is not really where reading starts. It starts well before the first word on the first page is said aloud. For our brains to really be in gear when we read, reading has to start when we first look at a book and wonder what’s inside.

Start your engines!

Think about it like a race car. If they want to win, the best drivers warm up their cars well before the race begins. Before you and your child dive into a new book, follow these tips. By taking a few minutes to warm up your child’s reading race car, you’ll be helping her win the race!

  • Look at the cover – Check out the cover of the book before you open it. Ask your child about the title and the author. Look carefully at the cover illustration. Ask your child what she thinks the picture says about the story that’s inside.
  • Look inside – Now, open the book. Have your child look over the pictures, read the chapter titles and just do some exploring. This will get her thinking about what the words in the book are going to tell her.
  • Make some guesses – Once your child has looked the book over, ask her to guess what it’s about. Ask questions like, “What do you think you will learn when you read this book?” and “Is this a made-up story, or is it about real life?”
  • List some questions – Finally, ask your child to come up with some questions of her own – questions that she thinks will be answered as she reads the book. For a nonfiction book about sharks, for instance, questions could include, “Do sharks ever sleep?” and “What do sharks eat?” For a made-up story – a fiction book – this could include questions about who the main characters might be and what’s going to happen to them, such as  “Who is the boy on the cover?” or “Why are there pictures of bats and caves?”

Below is a new-book survey. Make copies of it and fill one out whenever your child starts reading a new book. You can ask her the questions and write in her answers, or if she is older, she can write in the answers herself. Don’t forget to look back at the page from time to time. Your child may find she has come across some of the answers to the questions she thought up, or she may even have some new questions to write down!

New-Book Survey

What is my book’s title? _______________________________________________________

Who wrote this book? ­­­­­­­­­­­­­_________________________________________________________

How many pages does it have? __________ How many chapters does it have? ____________

Is this a fiction book (a made-up story) or a nonfiction book (a real-life story)? ___________

What do I think this book is about? _______________________________________________

What are four things I want to learn by reading this book?

  1. ______________________________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________________________________

How do I think this story will end? ________________________________________________________