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Nana, I Have a Question

by Maryann Whitfield

Nana, I Have a Question

“Here’s the book I want you to read tonight Nana,” Luke said, handing me the book George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl.  “It’s a chapter book like my dad’s been reading to me.”

We leaned against the pillows on the bed.  Usually we read picture books as a bedtime story, but this seven-year-old seemed ready for a longer book with only a few pictures. 


After reading a couple of pages, Luke stopped me.  “Nana, I have a question.  Why is George’s grandma so grumpy and mean?  You’re nice.  Grandma Peach is nice.  I don’t understand why George’s grandma isn’t nice.” 

“What a great question.  Do you have any ideas why George’s grandma would be so grumpy?  I wonder how we figure out the answer.”

“I just don’t know.  Let’s keep reading!  I want to know why Grandma is so grumpy.”

“Good idea.  I think we need a few more clues from the author.  Let’s stop here tonight and read some more in the morning.”

“Okay, but it’s going to be hard to wait!”

I loved hearing those words.  Luke was caught in the beautiful spell a good book casts.

Reading to Children as They Get Older: The Benefits of Conversation

Reading to children allows them to listen and think just as Luke was doing when he asked his question (“Why is George’s grandma so grumpy and mean?”).  Luke’s curiosity led to a question that indicated he wanted to understand this strange character, the grandmother.  This grandma did not fit with what Luke understood about grandmothers from his life experiences.  His genuine question opened an opportunity for an ongoing conversation that helped him understand the story.

As children get older it is important to keep reading aloud to them.  The books they want to read and the books you want to read to them will have new challenges.  The books are often longer with few or no pictures, and need to be read over several days.  Children discover characters whose actions they don’t understand.  The books sometimes take them to places they’ve never been.  A child’s curiosity may cause them to have questions that can lead to a wonderful conversation.

Conversation while reading helps a reader experiencing a challenge.  Conversation engages the reader and the one being read to in a shared experience.  It is an opportunity to teach and to learn, as well as cherished bonding.  Sometimes the child’s questions lead to a conversation.  Sometimes though it is the parent who begins a conversation to help their child better understand the story.

To initiate a conversation the parent could say:

• I have a question.  There’s something I don’t understand.  Will you help me figure it out as we read more of the story?

• Do you remember yesterday your question was…

• I wonder, think, noticed…  What are you thinking?

Literacy Library Bulletin Links

Tim O’Keefe – Encouraging Reluctant Readers

Literacy Gallery Episode  Link

Maryann Whitfield – Why Do Dandelions Have So Many Seeds