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A Lively Conversation

by Maryann Whitfield

“Nana, did you know snakes, lizards, turtles, alligators, and crocodiles are reptiles? We have to read my new book about reptiles!” Luke declares as he comes rushing in the front door. I know immediately Luke has a plan for us as he so often does. Today’s plan is to read his new book about animals that fascinate him. Reptiles!

We sit down and get comfy in the big chair. I read the book’s title Discovering Reptiles. We’ve just begun exploring the book’s pictures when a lively conversation erupts…

“Can we read this page?” Luke asks while pointing to a picture of an unusual looking reptile. “Just look at this big guy with a funny nose! Look at his sharp teeth! He kinda looks like a crocodile.”

I read the title of the page Gharial. “That’s a strange name for this unusual looking reptile. I wonder how it got its name?”

Luke shrugs but he looks like he is thinking. I start reading some of the page aloud and then pause. 

“I just noticed this reptile does the same thing you and your dad do when you’re in the swimming pool.” “They give their kids piggyback rides!” Luke exclaims. We both laugh. Luke tells me he thinks their kids might need to take a break from swimming sometimes so they get a piggyback ride. 

I read a little more and pause again in case Luke has something to say. And of course he does. “Nana, now we know how he got his name! It’s because of the round shape on the end of his nose.”

As we read and talk I soon recognize my main job in our conversation is to give this little reader time to think. I find myself wanting to ask him questions that are not needed. I can see if I pause at places with interesting information and refrain from asking too many questions that he will begin explaining what he is figuring out.

Sharing a Book and a Conversation

Some children are eager and enthusiastic to have a conversation about the book we read with them. Other children may be hesitant to participate in the conversation. 

We can encourage our child to participate whether they are hesitant or enthusiastic with statements about the book rather than asking a lot of questions. Too many questions may cause our young reader to feel like they might give the wrong answer. This could make them reluctant to respond rather than engage in a conversation.

Statements will let them hear our thinking as a reader. We begin with “I” rather than “you” to encourage them to share their thoughts too.

• I wonder… (I wonder how it got his name?)

• I noticed… (I just noticed this reptile does the same thing you and your dad do when you’re in the swimming pool.)

• I think… (I think this animal may be endangered.)

Throughout the conversation we listen attentively making sure we give adequate time for our child to think and respond with their thoughts about the book. And sometimes a lively conversation will erupt!

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