At a storytime reading session, a librarian reads The Paper Bag Princess. At various points during the reading, she stops and asks questions to make sure that children understand. Anyone reading with a child can follow her technique.
After getting the children settled in a circle, the librarian holds up the cover of the book and reads the title. Then she points to the picture of a dragon on the cover. “Children, this is a dragon. Do you know what a dragon is?”
“A dragon is a monster!” answers one child.
“A dragon is big and scary!” replies another.
“A dragon is pretend!” replies another.
After several similar responses, the librarian gives an encouraging, “Yes! exactly. A dragon is a big scary creature. It has wings, and some dragons can even breathe fire from their mouths, and it is pretend.”
She then proceeds to read the story. As the plot unfolds, she pauses in her reading and asks questions to help the children predict what is coming next. “What do you think the prince is going to say to the paper bag princess?” she asks and waits patiently while several children put forth wildly different answers. “Well, let’s see if we got it,” she says, then moves forward.
Later, to help children with their understanding of the main character, she asks,“Why do you think the princess is getting the dragon to show how strong he is?”
With these sorts of questions, the reader helps ensure that children understand the text. But the questions also have another purpose: to help children learn how to think about literature and how to look for what is important in a story or any piece of text.