How to Use Books to Spark Important Conversations With Your Kids

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I recently read an article in Parents magazine that reiterated one of the things I love about reading and sharing books with my kids. The short article focused on the actress Kristen Bell and the importance she places on reading with her kids. One part of the article in particular stuck with me.

Bell says…

"Every time we close Snow White I look at my girls and ask, 'Don't you think it's weird that Snow White didn't ask the old witch why she needed to eat the apple? Or where she got that apple?' I say, 'I would never take food from a stranger, would you?' And my kids are like, 'No!' And I'm like, 'Okay, I'm doing something right.'"

I love this. It is such a good reminder to me of what an amazing tool books can be to have important conversations with ours kids. This is true when they are little and we are reading Snow White and, it is true when they are teens reading about more complex issues.

Many books contain stories and themes that depict the hard or dark side of life. They tell about characters who make good decisions as well as characters who make really bad ones. By asking our kids questions about what they are reading and encouraging them to think critically, books offer us a chance to process and discuss these topics together. Use the books your kids read as opportunities to talk about tough issues. Stories can inspire important conversations if we are intentional in pursuing them.

These conversations help us connect with our kids and they help our kids think critically about the books they read.

Honestly, I was not great at this when my kids were little. I would read the stories and move on. But, I’m not going to feel guilty about what I didn’t do. Instead, I’m going to be more intentional about what I will do in the future.

This doesn’t mean I will interrogate my kids with 100 questions about every book they read. It does mean, I will take some time when we are in the kitchen together or I’m driving them to school to ask one or two questions and see what kind of conversation they spark.

Realistically, most of our conversations will be basic. However, I have a feeling if I’m persistent, every once in awhile a book-inspired conversation will strike gold.

The hardest part of this can be coming up with good questions to ask. Asking the same thing over and over like, “What book are you reading?” and “Do you like it?” can get tiresome for both of you. To help, I’ve created a list of ten bookish questions you can use to spark conversations with your kids.

Consider asking your child one of the following about the book they are reading:

1) What was the main character like? Do you think you would have been friends? Why?

2) Who was your favorite and least favorite character? Why?

3) If you were the main character, would you have done anything differently? Do you think he or she made good choices?

4) What did you learn from this book?

5) Why do you think the author wrote this book? What message or idea do you think they wanted you to take away from reading it?

6) Did you like the ending? Would you have ended it differently?

7) What did this book make you feel? Did anything make you uncomfortable while you were reading? Why?

8) Tell me about your favorite part of this book.

9) Tell me about your least favorite part of this book.

10) Would you recommend this book to a friend? If so, who and why?

(You can find a printable PDF of these questions by clicking here.)

Books help us spark discussions about important topics that might be harder to broach in every day life, and they are an amazing way to connect with our kids.

Keep reading, ask questions, listen carefully and let the books you share bring you closer together.

What are some of your go-to questions you use to start conversations with your kids about the books they are reading?

If you need ideas to help you discern if a book is appropriate for your child to read, I wrote a post here with a few thoughts and resources that might help.