Formulating inferences (combining what you know with what is implied in the book to come up with logical or reasonable expectations) and making predictions about what is likely to happen are vital skills for learning across the ages. Middle schoolers should be skilled at this by now. However, they are ready to make more abstract inferences. Use these books to foster this vital skill in your child:
- Tuesday by David Wiesner is the perfect book for visual learners. A great wordless story for inferencing, predicting, visual problem solving and retelling. Support your child’s development of dialog by making thought bubbles for them to fill in. Infer what he is thinking or feeling by using the animals’ body language to create the narrative. Ask higher level inference questions such as why the woman does not react to the frogs or is there a reason the police officer looks at the lily pads?
- Mr. George Baker by Amy Hest. Ask your child how she knows the man takes pride in how he looks (use the physical description). What character traits to his actions allow you to infer (e.g., patience, intelligence, etc.)? What does his narration tell you (e.g., about his humor or his values)? The goal is to use the story to infer more abstract qualities and information.
- The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg. See if your child can tell you the clues she uses to infer who the stranger is (Jack Frost).
- Two Minute Mysteries by Donald J. Sobol. Set your child’s sleuthing skills loose and see if he can use subtle clues and inferences to solve these tricky mysteries. Can your child describe his strategies to you? This is a great way to support metacognition! Want more? Check out MysteryNet’s Kidpage; older kids can go straight to the MysteryNet site.
- Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe. Inferring allows your child to gain a more nuanced understanding of what she reads. Use the poetic language of this book to draw out inferences. For example, have your child describe what it means for the jar to glow like moonlight (was it the only source of light in the dark room?). Moving beyond the literal is also what children this age are doing. Ask your child if the fireflies were literally dancing in his tears, or if there is a more abstract interpretation. What emotions can your child infer?
- The End by Donald LaRochelle is an interesting backwards fairy tale that allows your child to think about cause and effect as well as inferences and predictions.