A special type of question are prediction questions that ask children to make an informed guess about what will happen next in a story. Prediction questions develop children’s logical thinking skills. The key is this: Do not only ask for a prediction, also ask for the reasoning behind the prediction. The principle we must bear in mind is: the quality of a prediction is determined not by what actually happens next in the book but by the quality of the reasoning behind the prediction.
After all, books are just creations of authors’ imaginations. There is no right or wrong way for a story to proceed. Clues that children can use as a basis for their predictions include:
- The title of the book. If the book’s title is Kayla & the Magical Tree, it would be logical to guess that at some point something magical will occur.
- The author. Certain authors have different styles. For instance, if other books by an author are fantasies with all sorts of out-of-this-world events, children’s predictions can include actions that could not take place in the real world. In contrast, if another author’s other books contain only realistic actions, predictions of fantastic events are less reasonable.
- The type of story. We know that certain types of stories follow certain patterns. In mysteries, the detectives collect clues and then usually solve the mystery at the end of the book.
- Knowledge of similar books. Children can recognize similarities between different books. For example, Asian countries have many stories about the mousedeer, a small creature who outwits larger adversaries. Thus, if children have already been exposed to one or two other mousedeer stories, when they see one that begins with a mousedeer being hunted by a crocodile, they might surmise that the mousedeer will find some way to outthink the crocodile.
- Real world knowledge. This is often the best source of clues. In a book about elephants, children can use their knowledge about these animals to make reasonable predictions.
- Previous parts of the book. Children need to use information from earlier parts of a story to predict what will happen in later parts. Many children’s books, known as predictable books, make this easier by repeating certain patterns many times.
In addition to developing children’s skills at logical thinking, prediction has other advantages. First, it encourages children to listen carefully. Second, prediction heightens children’s interest in the book, because after making their prediction, they are keen to find out what the authors decided to have happen next in their book.
Dad reminder: You can start to read to your kids at ANY age. It's fun for the kids and dad. It really is a dad duty!
- George Jacobs, Ph.D. and Wan Loh Inn, Ed.D.
Dr. George Jacobs, Ph.D. and Dr. Wan Loh Inn, Ed.D. are the authors of many books (including "The Read Aloud Guide", textbooks for teachers and students, curriculum guides, and children's storybooks).
Find out more about reading aloud to your kids.