Now this series on reading to your kids is for all you fellow moms out there. My next suggestion is technically two - but they go so well together that I wanted to talk about them at the same time. In general terms, here are the definitions:
Predictions and Inferences have to do with using context clues (from pictures or from words) in order to make a guess about the story. Predicting is guessing what will happen; inferencing is guessing what already happened.
1) A great example of teaching 'predicting' is something that you will see most lower elementary teachers do every time they grab a book. They will show the cover to their class, read the title, and ask, "What do you think this story is about?" Try doing this with your kids every time you pick up a book. They will start out by making guesses based on the picture on the front. That's great! Encourage every guess. It's important to teach your child that there is no wrong answer. Then read the title. Sometimes the title of the book doesn't match the picture exactly...this provides a good opportunity for discussion. For example, in many copies of "The Mitten" by Jan Brett, the cover shows the mitten but it also shows a lot of other animals that will make an appearance.
Talk about how the mitten is probably the main part of the story since it is the title. Then make predictions about the mitten. Whose is it? Why is it on the ground? What do you think happened next? What are the animals going to do with it? See how you have already had some great discussion and you haven't even opened up the book yet?
2) Make predictions as you go throughout the book about what might happen next. You will need to talk about why you think something will happen next. For example, in one of my favorite books for preschoolers, "Good Night Gorilla", there are hardly any words which can allow for some great conversation. There is a page where the gorilla is stealing the keys from the zookeeper.
You can ask, "What is the gorilla going to do next?" Talk about how the gorilla is reaching for the keys, so he is probably trying to take them and unlock his cage and escape. (That was actually using clues to make an inference which then helps you make a prediction. They go together very well. But you can see how it can get quite complex and children may need it explained step by step).
3) Many picture books have plenty of opportunities to teach inferencing, because the illustrator can't very well draw every single thing that happens in the story. Oftentimes you have to use your imagination and clues from the story to fill in the blanks. Returning to my "Good Night Gorilla" example, the page after the gorilla is sneaking the keys is a picture of the gorilla following the zookeeper and they are now at the elephant's cage.
Clearly some things have happened since the last picture, namely, the gorilla opened his own cage with the keys that he stole. Many children have a difficult time grasping these events when they didn't actually see them occur. Explain to the child that something happened and we didn't see the picture of it, but we know it happened because of the clues the pictures gave us. So....what do you think will happen next? See - another predicting opportunity. This particular book is great because there are a TON of opportunities for inferencing and predicting. I think that once you start paying attention you will notice how often we apply these skills in books without even realizing it! If your child learns how to do this with pictures then it will be a great foundation for them to start applying it when they learn how to read on their own, then when there are no pictures at all.
I hope you find this helpful and that you have fun reading books with your kids!