Learning to decode words — transforming marks on a page (or screen) into sounds in our brains — is one big reading skill. Learning to read those words fluently in sentences is another. The Creative Team considers those skills as we create Ready Set Go Books.
But other skills are needed for understanding the sentences and paragraphs we read. When I was a senior lecturer in the English Department at the University of North Dakota, I helped run the Red River Valley Writing Project and learned a lot about those other skills from the classroom teachers who were part of the project.
Two important ones are the ability to predict and the ability to infer. I learned ways that classroom teachers work with struggling readers to practice those skills. Now I incorporate those insights into my work on the Ready Set Go books.
Writers often use the pleasure of repetition, which not only helps readers decode but also helps readers predict what is coming next. Life tends to be chaotic. Books, on the other hand, use patterns and concepts like set-up and pay-off to create beginnings, middles, and ends that intrigue and please the brains of readers.
The words and illustrations that tell the story of this mischievous monkey are a good example of how readers can practice prediction. The story also requires inference.
We writers are often urged, “Show, don’t tell.” We deliberately leave things for the reader’s brain to fill in. That’s why readers must practice learning to infer—or filling in the gaps. The creative team often has conversations with our translators who want to spell everything out, possibly because books with colorful illustrations that provide reading clues are still rare in Ethiopia.
This is an example of how inference works in the book Girls Grow Up. First, the reader sounds out these words:
When the reader turns the page, the next spread is designed for the pleasure of contrast.
One of the people on the translation team wanted to add the words “in an airplane.” But experienced reading teachers know that the illustration gives enough clues to help the reader’s brain fill in that missing information. Using our brains in that way helps them grow stronger and maybe even prepares them for a lifetime of good reading.