Check understanding with book-based games and discussion

Reading for pleasure should be just that. It should be enjoyable. But firing questions at your child to check they’ve understood what’s going on in the book may seem more like work than fun to them!

It is, of course, incredibly important to check and extend your child’s comprehension of what’s being read; after all, the whole point of reading is to extract meaning.

Instead of using direct questions, which can put a child on the spot, try some of these more creative approaches:

Create a platform for discussion

Make speculations to encourage deeper thinking. Saying, ‘I wonder why Tom opened the box?’ instead of, ‘Why did Tom open the box?’ invites your child to make suggestions rather than putting them on the spot. They need to understand the importance of applying their own thoughts to what they read – there isn’t necessarily always a right and wrong answer!

Make statements that invite a counter-argument. ‘That box is surely too heavy for him to carry!’. Being able to construct a reasoned argument based on what you have read is a key characteristic of a skilled reader. Presenting them with the opportunity to challenge what you have said will tell you whether they’ve understood the text or not.

Make connections to your child’s life to prompt their thinking. ‘This picture reminds me of the time we went for a bike ride in that forest ’. Linking our prior knowledge to what we are reading helps strengthen our comprehension; children often don’t make those connections and therefore miss some of the meaning. Which in turn lessens the enjoyment.

Make connections to books outside of reading. Show your child that what they read is connected to the wider world. Sometimes children don’t ‘get it’ at the time of reading but regularly talking about how real life events relate to books you have shared, will help them get there.

Play book-based games

A love of reading will grow if your child is having repeated positive experiences with books. Playing book-based games with children of all ages helps them to delve deeper into a text in a really fun way. It checks that they have understood what they’ve read and encourages them to spend more time with books.

Here are five very simple but effective games that will test and extend your child’s understanding without them even realising it! You might even learn something too! 

Write or record a book review

Writing or recording a book review is a fun way to see whether your child has understood the key points of what they have read. Being able to summarise a text is an important reading skill – it shows they can determine the ‘Big Idea’ and sift out the essential details to support it.

Having opinions about books and the belief that others will value those opinions is an important part of self-identifying as ‘A Reader’. The more confidence a child has in interacting with books, the more likely they are to enjoy it.

Why don’t you both do a review and compare? Here is a book review template you could use for a written review.

And finally, you need to get the balance right; checking understanding too often will spoil the flow of the story and lessen the enjoyment. Wait until there is a natural break in the book before having a discussion or playing a game and never be afraid to abandon a book if it just isn’t right for your child!