Inspired by grander projects*, this little blog explores the potential of picture books to excite children’s philosophical curiosity. I hope it will help to stimulate spirited discussions about open-ended questions and inspire other playful activities with a philosophical bent. For suggestions about how to use this blog, see How to play.
Philosophical questions resonate with significance for children, who have an obvious stake in answering them. After all, this is how children make sense of their world, construct and justify their values and principles, make rational decisions about their lives, and accept responsibility for their actions.
Although using children’s picture books as a springboard for philosophical dialogue is nothing new, I suspect that the books featured on this blog may be largely unknown to practitioners of Philosophy for Children. I like seeking out lesser-known books that deserve a wider readership, and all these books (even the out-of-print ones) are readily available for purchase online.
I think it’s a shame that in the selection of books as stimuli for philosophical enquiry, philosophical substance alone so often seems to overshadow other important criteria that matter to the art of the book.
I select picture books as much for their aesthetic merits as for their philosophical interest, because I believe that the quality of design, illustration, typography and all-round craftsmanship accounts for a lot of a book’s appeal. And I think that by combining intellectual adventures with visual and tactile pleasures – as I do at The Philosophy Club – we can make philosophy all the more fascinating to children.
I support this Proclamation, particularly the following statements:
A picture book should be fresh, honest, piquant, and beautiful.
Children’s books merit grown-up conversation.
Grown-up conversation doesn’t mean asking kids to leave the room.
If this sort of thing interests you, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you. Email Michelle: msowey [at] internode.on.net
Feel free to use or adapt any of my material for non-commercial purposes – but please do credit the source.
* Two wonderful contemporary examples are Jana Mohr Lone’s Wondering Aloud: Philosophy with Young People and Tom Wartenberg’s Teaching Children Philosophy. I also have to mention The View form the Oak: The Private Worlds of Other Creatures by Herbert R. Kohl & Judith Kohl, a book I read in my childhood, which seized me with philosophical wonder and did indeed open my mind to new worlds.