When I worked for the school system, sometimes parents would ask us to allow their child to skip a grade. Their argument usually centered around reading level. They would point out that their young child was reading books well beyond what you would expect them to be able to read. In reality, it was rare that the young student understood the text at a deeper level and was able to demonstrate higher order thinking .”It’s true that many children are able to decode the text (know what the words say by matching the sound to letters. It’s another thing entirely for children to understand complex storylines and identify the underlying theme, main idea, and other “big ideas.” We call this kind of thinking higher order thinking or critical thinking.
Here’s an example: Everyone knows the story Cinderella. If you ask someone to tell you how many step sisters Cinderella has in the story, the answer is “right there.” There is only one right answer. However, if you asked the reader what life lesson a particular character learned from their experience and whether he/she would most likely repeat their actions the next time, the conversation shifts to a deeper level.
That’s why I included some “higher order thinking” questions in Granny’s Teeth – A Collection of Quirky Rhyming Tales. It gives the adult reading buddy a sense of what the next level of understanding is beyond What happened in the story? I also included one question in huge print at the end of each tale to allow the independent readers to think about the story in a meaningful way. The font is so large, they can’t ignore it! In order to make the process as painless as possible, I made these “big” questions easier.
So have fun challenging your young reader with an appropriate question, and share your own ideas as well!