By Carol Kay

Grandma teaching Destiny to read in Pirate Preschool


Have you ever talked with a child that just seems more capable of drawing conclusions or engaging in more “adult-type” conversation than the average child? Children that have this capability have received training in how to read, think, and reason. First, they were taught how to read every word on the page, and second, they were taught how to make inferences from what they read.

When a child learns to make inferences, it simply means that he can read a page and draw a particular conclusion of his own, not just from the basic information stated directly in the text, but also from the information that he gathers from clues or hints that he finds in between the lines of the text.

Inferential thinking is being able to answer more than just the questions: Who? What? When? Where? and How?

Inferential thinking is when your child learns to answer these questions:

1) What did you find in the material you read that is relevant to your life, and why is it relevant to your life?
2) Can you relate any portion of the material you read to someone or something else in your life?
3) How do the conclusions you’ve drawn from the material you read relate with the choices you make or will make in the future?
4) How do the conclusions you’ve drawn from the material you read relate with your personal values?

He can learn to answer those questions when he learns to add together:

a) The actual facts he reads in the text plus
b) The hints and clues he finds in between the lines of the text plus
c) The conclusions he has previously drawn from his own knowledge, research, and experiences.

Of course, gaining the proper phonetic skills to actually be able to read every word on every page is the first step to inferential thinking. A child who can sound out all the words in front of him has a much better chance of drawing conclusions about the details given in the reading or of making inferences based upon what he reads in between the lines of the reading. After a child learns to read fluently, he can then learn to proceed beyond the standard facts given on a page and to surmise research-based conclusions of his own.

How do children learn to draw those conclusions? Children as young as four and five years old can learn to connect bits and pieces of information from the reading of a text from their own stored knowledge, and from their personal experiences through conversations that result from listening to stories and readings that their parents read aloud to them.

Reading aloud to your child will not teach your child how to read. However, reading aloud to your child will enable your child to hear numerous words that are not in his regular vocabulary, to hear ideas and opinions that are not necessarily his own, and to hear written material read through the oral expression of an adult.

The biggest advantage to oral reading, though, is the opportunity it affords to you, Moms and Dads, to discuss with your child what he can “imply” or “infer” from the selections that you read out loud. For example, let’s take the opening lines of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

The opening lines of this classic story read as follows:

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.
She went for a walk in the forest.
Pretty soon, she came upon a house.
She knocked and, when no one answered, she walked right in.

Those wonderful opening lines can open up whole channels of conversations between parents and children, conversations that begin with questions such as:

Why would you think that Goldilocks felt it was safe to walk in the forest alone?
How do you think Goldilocks felt about having the name, Goldilocks?
What kinds of names do you want to give to your future children, and why?
Have you ever seen a house hidden away in a forest?
Would you walk into a house if no one answered the door?

Moms and Dads, it is easy to teach our children inferential thinking when we begin reading aloud to them at a young age. However, be prepared for the inevitable, because children who learn to discuss stories with their parents will eventually desire deeply to read those stories and draw those conclusions independently, by themselves. Be prepared to make certain that your children receive the proper phonetic training in order to do that.

If a child does not receive the proper phonics training to read for himself, he’ll give up on reading, he’ll give up on books, he’ll give up on his own abilities to draw research-based conclusions, he’ll lose confidence in his own abilities to express himself, he’ll miss out on the adventure of using his thinking skills to help others etc.

However, children who do receive the proper reading instruction can carry on with inferential thinking. Inferential thinkers are not just smarter children, but they are wiser children who can:

a) Read and gain information.
b) Mesh that information together with their own research, knowledge, and experiences, and
c) Use that whole package to serve their family, friends, country, and God.

Parents, smarter, wiser children don’t just happen. They are trained.

May God Bless Your Efforts,
Carol Kay