The Beginning of Critical Thinking

I recently read a review by a university professor slamming a children’s picture book because it depicted unsafe actions by the characters. I won’t say what the books is because I happen to love it and so do the children I read it to. It makes them laugh.

A lot of that laughter comes from the slightly uncomfortable, if unconscious feeling that what’s going on in the story shouldn’t and probably couldn’t happen. In other books there is vocabulary that we might not use, again soliciting uncomfortable giggles.

Wouldn’t you say that’s the beginning of critical thinking?

My message:

Sometimes characters in books say and do things that you would never say or do. [Shocking!!!] That doesn't mean that there are other people in the world who wouldn't say or do those things. There are all kinds of people in the world. [Thinking...] We grow by understanding others and then making our own choices.


Filed under Education, Library Class, Reading

8 responses to “The Beginning of Critical Thinking

  1. This is wonderful. It’s also true. It’s also a sign of hope that at least some children are being taught by people who want them equipped to function in life as adults rather than as fearful, dependent children.

  2. Laurie

    I think about this (student) discomfort every time I read the word “stupid”…not very often, but it happens!

  3. sbkaren

    I have to approve all the books that go on the shelves of my media center/library. Sometimes it can be the language that keeps it from making it on my shelf, but sometimes not. Most likely it’s the content. I have to keep it K-5 – and even though we have some high level readers and thinkers I have to remember that the books are accessible to ALL students. Can I limit them from checking them out? Yes I can, but I’d rather not.

    I think children need to learn the difference between what is appropriate and what is not. If I’m reading the story (I often have parent volunteers read the story), I always address the language or actions of characters if I think they are doing something that is ‘not quite right’. I’d love to know the name of the book in question if you are willing to reveal. I’m still trying to get to your blog about the layout of your library, but this time of year is just so busy. Very soon now we’ll be on winter break and I’ll have more time to browse around…..and I plan to do just that!

    • We do have to choose appropriate material – there’s no doubt. Parents and society are trusting us to do that. For that reason I have the very awkward but necessary arrangement of sections for different ages because I’m in a K-12 school.

      However, the humour in a book often comes from inappropriate behaviour. You can tell by the expressions on the kids’ faces that they ‘get it’ and a little discussion to confirm their reaction never hurts, but I try to be careful to stay away from being ‘preachy’, which can just inspire the rebellious streak in many children. How much fun would life be without Curious George?

      The book is Hazel Hutchins’ Norman’s Snowball and the review is here: Granted, it was written over a decade ago and the author may well have softened her criticism.

      • sbkaren

        I don’t believe I have that one on my shelf….as I’ve pulled most of my holiday/winter books recently to fulfill themes I display. Now I’m curious!

  4. Pingback: December’s Elementary & Junior High Library Class and ‘Share the Gift of Story’ Reads | Beyond Survival in a School Library

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