Inspiring Great Discussion by Reading Aloud

One of my favorite things about reading aloud- especially as my kids are getting older- is the fact that we seem to get in so many great discussions involving books we are reading. There are always topics that you want to discuss with your kids that might not come up in regular conversation. It’s much easier to discuss them naturally when they come up in a book you’re reading together. There are also things you didn’t realize you needed to talk about, but reading something triggers an in depth conversation you’re really glad you had.

We’ve had the opportunity to explain British customs and wordings and why “ass” isn’t necessarily a bad word when we’ve read Enid Blyton’s books. We’ve discussed heaven and what it will be like when we read The Last Battle (from the Chronicles of Narnia). We’ve compared various religions and discussed the idea that all roads lead to heaven as we’ve read A Wrinkle in Time. We’ve talked about the oppression of the Jewish people by the Romans and why they looked for Christ to be a deliverer in the military sense as we read The Bronze Bow (which I’ll cover in next week’s book talk.) These discussions- and many more- have come about totally unplanned by me. But they’ve been great opportunities for me to hear what my kids are thinking and to share my worldview.

Inspiring great discussions by reading aloud

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Sometimes these discussions seem to spring out of nowhere. For instance we recently finished reading Kingdom’s Dawn, the first book in a series by Chuck Black. I had purchased the series at a homeschool convention several years ago, and; while Charles had read them, I hadn’t read them, only skimmed through. I knew that the books were meant to be allegorical, a picture of biblical history through the whole Bible. We were reading the book, and we began to discuss how it wasn’t a particularly well-written book. And we began discussing the allegories in the book. We had a great discussion that stretched to include how allegories should be used to what makes a book well-written to the progression of biblical history. It was totally unplanned, pretty far from the actual subject of the book, but a great exercise in critical thinking for all of us. That’s the power of discussion found in a good read aloud.
So, how can you facilitate good discussion as you read aloud? Here are a few suggestions.

Choose well-written books.

Obviously even more poorly written books can have some discussion points (as we learned), but a well thought out, deep story has many more jumping off places.

Don’t be afraid of interruption. 

I allow kids to jump in when I read. I do it because to me, the value of critical thinking is more important than the story itself. Sometimes I have to draw a line when we can’t seem to get through more than a few sentences. Then I’ll tell the kids to save it to the end of the chapter.

Read or skim the book beforehand. 

Some great discussions just happen- as with our Kingdom’s Dawn book. But other discussions you can initiate when you know what’s going to come up in the book.

Let kids “listen in” to books that aren’t specifically read to them. 

I’ve been surprised many times when a younger child has come out with a pretty profound thought while listening to a book meant for an older child. Likewise my older kids often throw in opinions or discussion points when they’re listening in on a book read to the younger kids.
Great discussions don’t have to be planned or over thought. When you read good books together as a family, they can just happen.

Inspiring great discussions by reading aloud

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