We are excited to keep adding to Colorful Pages at Home! With this new series, we are hoping to help out families during the COVID-19 school closures by providing articles featuring a diverse book list and discussion questions/activities to target specific reading skills. If you still have questions about Colorful Pages at Home, please check out my detailed explanation here

In this post, we are going to give support in how to develop the reading skill of Describing and Understanding Characters for your K-12 students at home. Describing and understanding characters is a skill that every reader needs no matter their grade level! If we cannot understand the characters, can we really understand what we’re reading? Describing and understanding characters also gets into retelling, making inferences, making connections, summarizing, and many more reading skills. We have included books and questions/activities for ALL ages, Kindergarten to 12th Grade! 

Diving Into The Skill: Describing & Understanding Characters

Reading SkillDefinition
Describing & Understanding CharactersBeing able to name the characters (people or animals) in the book, what they do in the book, and deeply discuss who they are as people and what they add to the book
ExampleCommon Core State Standards
One character of “Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao” is Amy Wu. She tries to make bao. I can infer that Amy is a funny and hard working character. One reason I think this is because she said she can eat Bao all day and put up a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. Another reason is she also tries really hard to make the perfect Bao.RL.K.3, RL.1.3, RL.2.3, RL.3.3, RL.4.3, RL.5.3, RL.6.3, RL.7.3, RL.8.3, RL.9-10.3, RL.11-12.3
Grades K-12

Diverse Books to Practice Describing & Understanding Characters

Here are some diverse books that lend themselves to Describing and Understanding Characters: 

Picture Books:

Early Chapter & Middle Grade Books: 

YA Lit Books:

Elementary School Discussion Questions to Practice Describing & Understanding Characters

Choose the questions that you think fit what your child needs to review. While you and your child read a picture book or early chapter book together, ask them:

  • Who are the characters in the book?
  • What are the characters doing?
  • How does _[character’s name]_ feel? Why?
  • What are some words you could use to describe _[character name]__?
  • What kind of character is _[character name]_? How do you know? What does it say in the book that makes you think that? 
  • Why does _[character name]_ act that way? 
  • How does __[character name]_ feel about _[other character name]_? How do you know? What happens in the book that makes you think that?
  • What do you think  __[character name]_ thinks about _[other character name]_? How do you know that? What happens in the book that makes you think that?
  • What are some details from the text that tell you about the character? What do they tell you?
  • How do the characters interact with each other? 
  • Compare and contrast two characters. What is similar between  __[character name]_ and _[other character name]_? What is different between  __[character name]_ and _[other character name]_? 

Middle School and High School Reading Activities to Practice Describing & Understanding Characters

For OLDER kids (middle school and beyond), consider having students read the book and do the following activities: 

  • Make a chart and track all the characters, words to describe them, and evidence from the text that supports their ideas about those characters
  • Choose one character to track in the book and use sticky notes and mark every time that character changes or a new trait of that character is revealed
  • Write a reading response answering one of the following questions:
    • Choose two characters from your book. Compare and contrast them. 
    • Your novel features a complex main character. What makes them complex? Why do you think the author chose to make them that way?
    • How do the different characters interact with each other? How does this develop the theme of the book?
    • Why did the author choose to create that main character? How was the main character introduced and how did the main character finish in the novel?
    • How did the main character of the novel change? How does this develop or add to the theme of the book?

Try to encourage your older kids to use specific details from the text to support their ideas. If your students are really digging their reading response, ask them to change it into an essay or even type it up!

We hope this helps! If you try out this Colorful Pages at Home program, please take pictures and tag us on social media with @ColorfulPagesOrg (Instagram) or @ColorfulPages (Twitter) or use the hashtag #ColorfulPagesAtHome. Stay safe and stay healthy ❤️

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