As a former elementary school teacher, it drove me up the wall to see literacy standards which read something to the extent of “this year, your child will learn to infer.” Oh good grief!
Let me share a little secret with you. It takes MUCH longer than a year in your child’s life to master the art of the reading process and all that it entails. It’s never to early to begin the basic steps to create success for your child later on.
So, what is that word, “infer”, anyway? Inferring is a skill that you and I use every single day and will continue to use for the rest of our life. Inferring is a skill that comes difficult for children when it comes to reading, and a little bit easier in day to day life. Inferring is simply, “reading between the lines”. It means to use all the clues in the text to come up with a conclusion that may not be so obvious to the reader.
As you’re reading aloud with your child (because we KNOW your child will make sure you do!) it’s important to stop every 3-4 pages and talk about what you’re reading. This is essential for mastering the skill of comprehension, of which inferring is only one aspect. To begin the basic process for inferring, you can ask your kids simple questions such as …
… what do you think ____ (a character) is feeling?
… why do you think ____ did that?
These two questions are simple enough for a 2-3 year old to answer with a simple sentence or two. To take a next step, ask them to make a simple personal connection with extended questions such as “How would YOU feel if that happened?” or “What would YOU do?”
By asking them to connect their own feelings to the book and characters, you’re asking them to put themselves in a character’s shoes. This makes them “become” the book, helping them to remember the events more easily.
Comprehension is KEY to reading success. Your child may be able to read 100 words a minute by 1st grade, but if they can’t remember what they’re reading or understand the topic they are reading about (either by topic or emotional readiness), it’s pointless and can be utterly frustrating. By laying the basic foundation NOW your child will be ready for these essential next steps by the time they enter elementary school!