Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 9: 285–312, 1997.
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Reasoning in a reading context:
Deductive inferences in basal reading series
BRIDGET A. FRANKS, SHARON L. MULHERN and
SUSAN M. SCHILLINGER
University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida USA
Abstract. This study examined three basal reading programs published by Heath (1989), Silver
Burdett Ginn (1993) and Houghton Mifﬂin (1993), to determine how frequently logically
necessary relationships are expressed in text used by basal readers, and whether direct instruc-
tion in making logically necessary inferences accompanies such expressions in basal reader
series. The complete contents of the basal readers, from grades one through eight, and all
teachers’ instructions pertaining to content read by students, were examined for each series.
Frequency counts made by independent raters indicated that readers of these three series have a
steady and frequent rate of opportunities to make logically necessary inferences, and to observe
such inferences being modeled by the text; no signiﬁcant differences were found between any
of the series in the number of such opportunities. We found that while children’s reading
materials clearly offer a natural context in which logical understanding may be constructed,
instructions for teachers in the basal series we examined did not include directly teaching
students to use this kind of reasoning in reading comprehension. Suggestions are offered for
how such instruction might be integrated with current teaching strategies in inference-making.
Key words: Basal readers, Deductive reasoning, Logical relationships, Reading comprehen-
sion, Reading instruction
Children’s understanding of logical relationships is constructed, at least in
part, out of variety of language experiences. Although many studies of logical
reasoning use formal logic tasks in laboratory settings, other researchers have
been more concerned with the everyday contexts in which logical reasoning
is learned.The latter type of research offers severalexplanationsfor how chil-
dren learn to understand logical relationships through their own experiences.
Cheng & Holyoak (1985) have proposed that logical reasoning involves the
use of abstract knowledge structures that have been induced from life experi-
ences, such as permissions, obligations, and causations. Falmagne (1990) has
described a somewhat similar process where logic evolves out of children’s
detecting of predictable event relations, such as observing that pushing an
object makes it fall. For example, many conditional (‘if-then’) statements
refer to causal events. When children hear sentences such as, ‘If you push
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