"Why do you think that?" To answer inferential questions, children need to learn to use their internal voice.

So, your child is reasonably down the road with the skills of decoding and reading fluency. The next stage emphasis is typically focused on comprehension, and one of the underpinning skills of reading comprehension is the ability to apply the skill of “Hmm, let me think about it.”

What does this skill mean?

To solve a problem or answer an inferential question, you often need to stop, consider and go,  “Hmm, let me think about it.”  Many kids lack this skill (or thought process), especially ones where the primary focus has been on decoding and reading fluency.

This thought process can appear when engaged with reading or non-reading type of activities.

Inferential comprehension strategies/games

For example, using a non-reading example on the cognitive task called “Block Design,” children match blocks to a complex spatial/visual pattern. To arrive at a solution, the child would have to apply reasoning. There would be a connection between the internal voice in the mind of the child and the action that leads to a solution. The solution may not be immediately apparent. To solve the problem the child needs to consider, reflect and think about it.

If a child is not effective in using the internal voice that says, “Hmm, let me think about it,” he may reach a quick conclusion that he can’t do it. Effectively, what happens is the child quickly gives up or answers, “I don’t know.”

I see this all the time, this early quitting on a task.

Do not assume that this voice will be there naturally as part of the child’s repertoire. Children to whom this type of thinking does not come naturally need to be encouraged so they can practice the skill.

To help develop this internal voice and skill you may want to watch for signs of this voice being applied in real-life situations. For example, let’s say your child faces a problem between him and a friend that is not readily solved. There is a conflict with no easy solutions.

Pushing the use of the problem-solving voice encourages problem-solving. You may say something like, “Well, there isn’t an immediate solution to your problem, but what might you try to do to solve it?” Such a process shows the child that there isn’t an easy answer. However, by considering and reasoning, he may arrive at a solution.

Why do you think that…?”

With reading comprehension, seek ways of asking questions that don’t have easy answer and that encourages the child to read between the lines. Ask questions that start with, “Why do you think that…?” (“Why do you think that the settlers left the village?”)

A child who struggle with this type of thought process may quickly respond, “I don’t know-it doesn’t say.”

You could continue, “Well what are the clues? What evidence is there that helps us understand?”

It is this type of back-and-fourth dialogue that helps develop the child’s thinking and increase their, “Hmm, let me think about it” voice. This is an underpinning to the success of reading comprehension.


Adapted from “School Struggles,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (2012, Sentient Publications