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Practice Cause-and-Effect Thinking for Better Reading Comprehension

Critical thinking skills are based on prior knowledge and experience. In reading, these higher-level strategies help young students make reasonable guesses based on what they already know. This in turn helps to significantly increase their reading comprehension.

One easy way to start developing these skills in a young child is to discuss cause and effect. A child should know that a cause is “why” something happens, and an effect is “what” happens.

Parents can help a child seamlessly practice and incorporate this kind of thinking when reading together and into everyday life. Start by pointing out cause and effect in daily situations:

  • If you’re not at the bus stop by 8:15, you miss the bus.
  • If you leave a ball of string on the floor, the kitty will probably get tangled in it.
  • If you take a deep breath, then blow on the candle, the flame will go out.
  • When you fly the kite by the tree, it will most likely get caught in it.

When reading together look for  cause and effect “trigger” words like first, last, then, because, if, so, when, probably, most likely, etc.

Cause and effect can be found in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, and most other types of writing. Understanding cause and effect helps a child make important connections to what’s happening in a story. The more connections young readers can make, the more they deepen their understanding.


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