6 Picture Books That Build Reading Comprehension Skills: Inferencing

Build younger kids' reading comprehension with logical inferences in picture books

As a mom of little kids and a former teacher, I get excited when we read a picture book that can teach a big kid reading comprehension skill.

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I was super-excited when we read Princess Baby Night-Night by Karen Katz recently. It’s a sweet, simple story. However, it’s not quite as simple as other Karen Katz books, at least not the ones we’ve read.



The pictures tell one version of events, while the dialogue tells another. To understand, kids have to recognize that neither the pictures nor the text tell the whole story. They have to make logical inferences.


Inferencing is teacher jargon for reading between the lines. It’s putting together your own background knowledge plus details from a story, and then drawing a conclusion that wasn’t explicitly stated.
We worked on inferencing a lot when I taught 5th and 6th grade. Some kids got it easily. Others really struggled.


Build younger kids' reading comprehension with logical inferences in picture books


Early on, teachers focus a lot on what a piece of writing explicitly states. Over and over, we tell kids to go back and look in the story for details they can’t quite remember. This skill is important for developing basic comprehension.
Next, kids work on drawing easy conclusions, such as surmising that a girl is happy when she smiles. They progress into analyzing increasingly complex characters and situations.


By then end of fourth grade, the common core standards expect students to be able to make logical inferences.


Picture Books

Build younger kids' reading comprehension with logical inferences in picture books

If you want to give your little kids a head start on making inferences, read them great picture books.  Expose them to the concept that there can more going on than the words exactly say.


When you find yourself reading something that has another layer of meaning, stop for a moment. Stop, and ask your child a leading question.


In Princess Baby Night Night, the little girl tells her mom she’s putting pajamas on. The illustrations tell another story: she is putting pajamas on her stuffed animals.


When I read the book with my girls, I stopped and said, “Look. What is she doing?” “What does her mom think she’s doing?” Then we talked about how silly that was, and my girls enjoyed it even more.


I can tell they’re still processing this dual meaning, though. They keep asking for me to read the book again. Lucky for me, this is one I adore too, mostly because of the lovely illustrations.


More Picture Books for Inferencing
If you are looking for more picture books that give your kids practice making inferences and drawing their own conclusions, here are a few ideas:


Badger’s Fancy Meal by Keiko Kasza
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Zen Ties by Jon J Muth



    1. We've read every one of these awesome picture books multiple times (some of them many multiple times). I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

  1. Great idea! Reading comprehension is such an important skill, and I love the idea of introducing the concept of inferencing as early as possible starting with picture books. #made4kids

  2. I'm not big into "princess" books but I may have to try that. It's great getting them to use their brain and understand things themselves.

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