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I Read the Words Right

by Maureen Slamer

In picture books, the illustrations carry the meaning of the story.  The words provide some support.  In this vignette, you will see a young reader working to create meaning in the story. 

I Read the Words Right

“Nana, I don’t get it.  This book I don’t get.  I read all the words right.”

“Well, let’s see.  How about we try it together?”

“Move over, Nana.  You gotta see it too.”  JT climbed into the recliner.

JT read, “’A Car Followed Us.’”  Nana listened.  “I don’t get why that car followed them.”  JT read on. “’Dad picked us up at school today.  We drove home and three cars followed us.’  See Nana, I read all the words right.” 

“Yes, you did JT.  What are you thinking?” JT shrugged.  Nana waited.

“Let’s read that together.”  JT and Nana read the pages again.  “What’s going on?” Nana asked.

“Dad picked them up and drove home.”


“Those kids sure are excited,” Nana said, glancing at the picture.

“Nana, the words don’t tell you that!”  JT exclaimed.

“Sometimes JT, you use the pictures and think about what the words tell you.  Look at their faces.”

“Oh…” JT murmured.  “I wonder why they are so excited.”

JT looked at the pictures.  “Dad picked them up.  Maybe they only get picked up by their mom, like me.  So those are just cars going home too.”

“Good thinking, JT.  That’s possible.  It kinda looks like parent pickup at your school.”

JT read on.  “Nana, those cars are just going different places.  ‘One car still followed us.  It followed us up the streets and down the streets.’”  JT continued.  “Nana, that car is still following them.  Look at their faces.  Are they scared?  Why would they be scared?”

“I wonder JT.  What if a car followed you home?”

“Eewww…that would be scary.  Who is that?  It pulled in their driveway.  It’s a bad guy.”

“I don’t know JT.  It could be a bad guy.”

JT read on.  “Nana, it wasn’t a bad guy.  It was Mom!  Look!  She was at the grocery store.  I bet she was late and called Dad like my mom does.  She followed them.  I get it now Nana!”

Reading is about Understanding the Story

Sometimes our littles forget that reading is about understanding the story.  They read all the words right, but don’t understand the story’s meaning.  JT was confused.  (“Nana, I don’t get it.”). He read all the words right, but did not understand, and he knew it.

His Nana gave support and invited JT to read it again with her.  She provided support in small doses.  (“What are you thinking?  “What’s going on?”)  She built on what JT  already knew about school and parent pickup.

Nana used her questions and comments in a way that allowed JT to think (“I wonder why they are so excited”), search (JT looked at the pictures), and problem-solve (“Dad picked them up.  Maybe they only get picked up by their mom, like me”).

She was having a conversation with JT about the story’s meaning; not telling him the answer.

• As you listen to your child, are there personal links or connections you can make?

   What do you and your child notice in the illustrations that help to tell or show the story?

 How might you talk about your thinking or your child’s thinking as you read the story?

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