How to read with confident readers

Why do it?

Even if your child reads most books fluently, it is still massively beneficial to read with them regularly. This is for several reasons:

  • You can engage with unusual, new words and help them broaden their vocabularies.
  • You can help to stretch their comprehension level… how much do they REALLY understand about what is going on in the story?
  • You can help them to spot new punctuation they have been learning, consolidating their understanding.
  • It can be a fantastic ‘dry run’ to discuss tricky life events. Eg: fear, friendship difficulties, death.

It is worth remembering that reading is taught all the way up to GCSE, but with increasing levels of analysis. If your child is a confident reader, beginning to develop these skills of analysis NOW helps them enormously.

Most parents stop reading with their children when they can read alone proficiently, but continuing the habit with your children gives them a golden ticket to English progress that many don’t get. As well as this,  it helps them ‘unlock’ more from their stories, thus enjoying them more.


So how do I do it?

The key to reading with confident readers is to remember the following words:

Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, Can

As you read together, chat frequently about the plot, using these words to help you. Who, what, when, whereare ‘recall’ questions that help to establish their understanding of plot. How, why and can questions are higher order questions that make them think a little more deeply. You should chat with your children using a mixture of both these types of question.

Here are some sample questions from one page from the age old favourite ‘The Gruffalo’. Although many of your children will read much harder books than ‘The Gruffalo’, it helps to give you the idea of successful questioning.

When the questions reference ‘JD’, it refers to Julia Donaldson, the author. It is good to ask questions that make children aware of the author and the decisions they have consciously made; it helps encourage children to be more analytical in the way they view texts.


  • Who was strolling?
  • Who has an underground house?
  • Who is the ‘baddie’ character? How do we know?


  • What is a stroll? What other word is there for it?
  • What do we know about the wood? Can you prove it?
  • What does Fox imply he wants?
  • What do you think Fox actually wants? How do you know this?
  • What do you notice in the picture that is poisonous? Shall we look at a picture of a real one?
  • What is the name of a fox’s ‘underground house’? Shall we look it up?
  • What exactly are the words that Fox says?
  • What do you notice about the page when Mouse meets Fox, in comparison to the pages where Mouse meets Owl and Snake?
  • What is JD telling us about how to deal with people we meet who are dangerous or untrustworthy?


  • When is it? (Time of day) How do we know?


  • Where does Mouse say he is going? Why does he lie?
  • Where is he actually going, do you think? Why do you think that?


  • Why is the mouse so calm?
  • Why does the fox try and trick the mouse, rather than just eat him?
  • Why does the mouse just trick the fox, rather than run away?
  • Why does JD make some of lines rhyme? Which ones are they?
  • Why does JD use an exclamation mark when Mouse says, “Gruffalo!”
  • Why is the Fox’s speech in italics?


  • How do we know the mouse isn’t in a hurry?
  • How do we know the fox wants to eat the mouse?
  • How do we know when the fox/mouse are talking?
  • How do we know the fox is trying to trick the mouse?
  • How do we know that in actual fact, the mouse is tricking the fox?
  • How does JD show the animals to be very polite?
  • How does the fox’s face change in the pictures? Why? 
  • How does the fox feel about the prospect of a Gruffalo?
  • How does Mouse make Fox feel foolish about not knowing the existence of a Gruffalo?


  • Can you show me a dash? What job is it doing?
  • Can you explain the rules of punctuating speech, using this page to show me?
  • Can you make up your own new page for the Gruffalo, using a new animal, but following JD’s pattern?
  • Can you think of a situation in life you might face, where you would like to be like the mouse?

Sometimes it can be hard to think of specific questions for the book you are looking at with your child. Here is a list of generic questions to help you, that you can adapt to suit any text.

  • Why do you think they did that?
  • How do you think they feel? How do you know?
  • Why do you think the writer chose that word in particular? What does that suggest? (Eg: if a writer used ‘sauntered’ or ‘meandered’ to describe a character walking, it would suggest it was leisurely and they had time)
  • What do you think will happen next? Why do you think that?
  • Who do you like best at the moment? Why?
  • Can you explain that to me? Can you prove it by showing me proof?
  • Who is the most powerful/likeable/annoying/unpleasant/insert any characteristic (!) character at the moment? Why do you think that?
  • Can you point to an apostrophe/comma/dash/inverted commas/semi-colon/ or whatever punctuation they have been learning. Why is it there? What job is it doing?
  • Can you think of another word that means the same?
  • Can you use that word in a sentence of your own?
  • Can you point to a word which means………?
  • How would you describe the mood/atmosphere? Why do you think that?
  • Did you predict this might happen? Why/ Why not?
  • When is this taking place? What clues do we have?
  • Pinpoint the exact word/phrase sentence when we realise……….
  • What do you think?
  • How do you know?
  • Why do you think that?
  • Can you prove it?
  • Why has the writer said it like that?


Top Tips for nurturing enthusiastic readers:

  • If you don’t have much time to read with your child, be interested in what they are reading alone- ask for the next instalment. If you’re interested, they’ll be keen to tell you. Ask them lots of questions about it. Eg: Why did he do that? Did you like her? Why/why not? What do you think will happen next? Why?
  • If your child doesn’t enjoy reading books, use audiobooks too- they provide 80% of the same value but in a medium some children prefer.
  • Be a positive reading role model. If they see you reading and enjoying books, newspapers and magazines (rather than just phones and ipads!) it has a powerful impact on the value they place on reading. This is especially true for Dads with boys.
  • Encourage challenging reading choices by giving the ‘carrot’ of the feature film as a treat at the end.
  • Read to them, read with them, let them read to you, have them read alone… keep the format relaxed and flexible- but keep asking questions and having conversations around their reading.
  • Don’t ever say ‘It’s too easy, you shouldn’t be reading that….’. If they’re enjoying it, it’s valuable reading time.