7 Must Read Picture Books for Teaching Inferring in Upper Elementary Classroom

There is nothing more fun and engaging for upper elementary students than making inferences! Playing charades, solving mysteries, and reading books that require inferring are always some of my go to ways to introduce inferring with upper elementary students. 


How else do I love to introduce and practice inferring with my students? Using picture books of course! There are so many picture books that are perfect to help students focus on the skill of inferring by asking questions and collecting evidence to help them infer and truly understand the story and the author's message


Below is a list of MUST use mentor texts that upper elementary students love that requires that the readers make inferences to truly understand the story.



Knots on a Counting Rope written by Bill Martin Jr.

This touching story about a young boy who loves to hear the story about the night he was born, requires students to make inferences as they read, trying to discover what exactly makes this boy special. Through your questioning and evidence collection that you do with your student as you read this book, students will make inferences that help them discover that the young boy is blind. This is a story that makes a great mentor text for questioning, inferring, summarizing, character analysis, theme, and so much more! You will want to revisit and reread this book again and again for many different lessons!



The Stranger written by Chris Van Allsburg

On a drive one night, a family accidentally hits a man with their car. The family loads him up and brings him home to be checked by the family doctor.  The students have to think about who the man is given all the things in the story that make the man “strange”. He cannot talk, animals flock to him, and he seems confused by very common and simple items. Through class discussion and context clues, see if you can infer who thisnameless man is! Grab some no-prep materials to go along with the story here


The Wretched Stone written by Chris Van Allsburg

Hands down, my favorite book by favorite author, The Wretched Stone provides so many opportunities for students to infer and figure out just what the stone really is! This book is not just great for learninghow to make inferences, but also as a springboard for important topics such as being involved in the arts and limiting screen time! Chris Van Allsburg is a pure genius!


Picture Day Perfection written by Deborah Diesen  

We all have that picture day story we love to tell, but this one takes the cake! Syrup in his hair, a bench as cold and hard as an iceberg, and a late start to the day are going to make for a picture this student will never forget. Follow him on his journey to get the “perfect picture”... and see if your upper elementary students can infer what his true intentions were all along!


We Found a Hat written by Jon Klassen

When there is only one hat, but two heads… what is this duo to do?! In this great mentor text, explore inferring feelings, while also examining what friendship means. How do the turtles feel about what they want individually, and how do they feel about each other? The book is a very simple text, with minimal words but great illustrations. Teachers, brace yourselves because this one can lead to some very touching conversations about sacrifice for self and love of others.

Somebody Loves you, Mr. Hatch written by Eileen Spinelli

You do not have to wait until Valentine's Day to read this classic! When a man who keeps to himself gets a mysterious package, his whole demeanor changes. Mr. Hatch, a loner of a man who keeps to a strict routine receives an anonymous package with a simple note; “somebody loves you”. Those three words change his entire attitude and routine. This mentor text can be used to look at simple human needs. What does feeling love mean to a person, and how can it change them for the better? How does Mr. Hatch spend his days before and after he thinks he is loved, and what can one infer that means about himself? All of these questions that readers ask themselves must be inferred! Don’t forget to wrap this activity up by sharing love around your classroom!

                     Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great written by Bob Shea

This is a great text to use when looking at self-esteem and individual strengths and weaknesses. This book is nothing short of awesome. Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great is told through the eyes of Goat, an envious and bitter companion of the Oh-So-Great Unicorn. Except, what happens when Unicorn doesn’t think he’s actually all that great after all? Inferring the emotions the characters feel about themselves and each other will lead to some awesome class conversations about their own strengths and weaknesses. 


Being able to make inferences is one of many reading strategies that students must master in order to understand the increasing complex stories they read as upper elementary students. Be sure to take your time reading each book, collect information that helps students make inferences, and model yourself how you infer as you read these books! 


Try this inference activity that always helps my students become active readers who infer as they read!



Grab FREE inference activities to use with one of the books in this blog post below!

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Looking for more inferring activities to help students succeed? See more HERE.

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