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Asking Open-Ended Questions

Family Reading Time series

Research shows that having conversations with children during book reading can significantly improve their understanding of the book and build their early literacy skills. One way to increase conversation is to ask children questions during book reading, using dialogic reading prompts such as those developed by Grover Whitehurst. This video demonstrates the prompt for OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS, where the adult asks the child questions that do not have a simple yes or no answer. This gives the child the opportunity to use a lot of language, and the parent a chance to evaluate how well the child is understanding the story.

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  • Family Reading Time: 
    Asking Open‐Ended Questions

    (This video has captions. You can turn them on by clicking the CC icon at the bottom of the video.)
    Download a printable transcript.

    Introduction: And now, it’s Family Reading Time!

    Narrator: Did you know that asking your child questions while reading can help him become a stronger reader?

    Adult: Why do you think he’s calling for his mama?
    Child: Because he wants a drink
    Adult: You think?
    Child: Oh! Because he’s lonely.

    Narrator: Asking open‐ended questions, or questions that don’t have simple yes or no answers, gives your child the chance to use a lot of language, and helps her understand what’s happening in the book.

    Adult: What do you notice about his face?
    Child: Is he happy?
    Adult: What do you think?
    Child: He is sad.
    Adult: How do you know he’s sad?
    Child: I don’t know.
    Adult: Look here. What’s that?
    Child: A tear.
    Adult: A tear. Is he crying?
    Child: Yeah.

    Narrator: Research shows that having conversations during book reading can strengthen children’s language and early literacy skills.

    Narrator: Family Reading Time Tip: Ask your child open‐ended questions when reading.

    Closing: Family Reading Time has been brought to you by the Windham Area Women & Girls Fund and the Center for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Connecticut State University.

  • Family Reading Time was developed under the Dialogic Reading for Multilingual Families project, funded by the Windham Area Women and Girls Fund of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut. The project provided training to multilingual families, including high school students, on the importance of continuing to read to children in their first language. Trainings also included information on dialogic reading strategies for fostering oral language during book reading. Interested families volunteered to be videotaped reading to their children.
  • La hora de lectura en familia: Haciendo preguntas abiertas
    Family Reading Time: Completing a Phrase
    Family Reading Time: Remembering the Story
    Family Reading Time: Asking Wh- Questions
    Family Reading Time: Making Connections to the Story
  • Producer: Julia DeLapp
    Director and Editor: Denise Matthews
    Production Coordinator and Editing Consultant: Ken Measimer
    Content expert: Ann Anderberg
    Videographers: Ken Measimer, Denise Matthews, Sean Leser (Eastern student), Amy Dillon (Eastern student)
    Narrators (English): Luz Ramos, Denise Matthews
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