Why Blog

I’m passionate about finding ways to simplify comprehension instruction and learning. I’m concerned that we are defining comprehension too narrowly as an accumulation of five or six meta-cognitive strategies when cultivating comprehension involves so much more than that. We need to help children acquire accurate fluent reading skills and strategies; build background knowledge; develop their oral language and vocabulary; make reading-writing connections, and acquire a repertoire of meta-cognitive strategies to use as and if needed.

So I invite you to join me in blogging about this ever-so-important topic. I look forward to hearing your ideas, teaching strategies, book recommendations, classroom stories, etc., basically anything that will inspire a healthy conversation among colleagues.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Two Great Picture Books to Help Kids Infer

While it’s true that each and every book children read requires them to infer—to fill in the gaps the author left—there are some books that really get kids thinking about why a character is feeling and behaving as he is. Two of my favorites are Tight Times by Barbara Hazen Shook and Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts.

Tight Times is an oldie but goodie. So old that many of you were not even born when it was first published back in 1979. Imagine! However, it’s a book that every elementary-grade teacher should be familiar with, especially if you collect realistic picture books that kids can relate to and get them thinking. Here we have a young boy who wants a dog but since his family is going through “tight times” no amount of pleading can convince his mom and dad to let him have one. There are abundant opportunities for readers to infer, e.g., why the family has to eat lima beans so often instead of roast beef, why the dad comes home in the middle of the day looking so sad, why his mom and dad start to cry and make a sandwich hug with him in the middle, and why he starts to cry too?  This family, although low on funds, is high on love.  

Interestingly enough, Those Shoes is also about a boy desperately wanting something—in this case, black sneakers with white stripes—so he can fit in with the kids at school. However, his grandma only has money for things Jeremy needs, not things he wants. Readers have to infer how he’s feeling, why Antonio is the only classmate who doesn’t laugh at the velcro sneakers the guidance counselor gives him to replace his shoes that fell apart, why he tries so hard to fight his instinct to eventually give the too small shoes he and his grandma found in a thrift show to Antonio who has smaller feet. 

In both books, readers have to work to fill in the gaps so they can understand the character’s dilemma and then celebrate its resolution.

I’m going to start a new list in the right-hand column of fiction and nonfiction books that do an especially good job of providing opportunities for kids to infer. I hope you’ll also add to this list by writing in your favorite titles in the comment box. 


  1. Thanks for the suggestions Sharon. I am always in search of great mentor texts. Please keep them coming? Should I be looking for a new book soon :)

  2. You're right...it's fun to keep adding to our mentor text collection. Is there a picture book that you use for inferring that we should know about? If you send the title along I'll add it to the "Picture Books to Help Kids Infer" list on the column to the right.

    And yes, I'm happy to say that my new book came out in November. It's called Comprehension from the Ground Up and you can find the link for it in the left column in my "bio." Thanks for asking.

  3. My kids love Those Shoes, which is guaranteed to be in somebody's book box each week. I'll have to check out Tight Times. Thanks for the recommendations!

  4. Hi Friend--Hurricane, by David Wiesner is a great book for inferring. I first learned about it when working with Developmental Studies Center colleagues. In fact, we read it yesterday when working with some teachers in New Jersey! It's great!