Wondering Aloud: Philosophy With Young People

A Shelter in Our Car

In A Shelter in Our Car, Monica Gunning depicts the experiences of eight-year-old Zettie and her mother, who have come to the United States after Zettie’s father’s death. They are temporarily homeless, due to the struggle Zettie’s mother has been having to find reliable work. After they have spent some time in a shelter, which, Zettie […]

Amazing Grace

Mary Hoffman’s 1991 picture book Amazing Grace tells the story of Grace, who loves stories and especially loves acting them out. Filled with imagination and dramatic flair, Grace decides that she will play the part of Peter Pan when her teacher tells the class that they are going to perform the play. One student tells her, […]

Benjamin’s Dreadful Dream

Dreaming is a source of fascination for most children, and the topic can lead to examinations of questions about knowledge, and the relationship between reality and experience. Benjamin’s Dreadful Dream is Alan Baker’s picture book about the hamster Benjamin, who one night decides to get up and have a snack when he can’t sleep. Quickly, all kinds […]

Children’s rights

The book For Every Child, published in 2001 in association with Unicef, with text by Caroline Castle and a forward by Archbiship Desmond Tutu, lists some of the rights enumerated in the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, in accessible language and with magnificent illustrations by 14 different artists. For example, the rights […]

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type

My colleague Karen Emmerman, the Center for Philosophy for Children’s Education Director, has contributed this guest post: Doreen Cronin’s book Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type is one of my favorite books to use in philosophy for children sessions. It lends itself to many different sorts of wondering.   In the book, animals on a farm acquire […]

Does everything have a right to live?

In a fourth grade class at Whittier Elementary School yesterday, we read chapter 3 of Standing Up to Mr. O by Claudia Mills, and the children asked the question, “Does everything have a right to live?” Most of the children responded initially that they thought that everything did have a right to life. Here is an excerpt […]

Elections and Normality

On Wednesday morning after Tuesday’s election, I led my weekly philosophy session with a group of 5th grade students at John Muir Elementary School. The students are primarily immigrants and children of color. I knew that they would want to talk about the presidential election, and so I brought the book, The Araboolies of Liberty […]

Fish On A Walk

Fish on A Walk by Eva Muggenthaler is a new picture book that illustrates each picture with only two adjectives — “Happy-Sad,” “Jealous-Accepting,” “Wild-Polite,” etc. — and each picture contains a wealth of activities and behaviors that invite exploration of what these words mean. Can you be jealous and accepting at the same time? If you’re happy can you […]

Four Feet, Two Sandals

Four Feet, Two Sandals, by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, tells the story of two ten-year-old girls, Lina and Feroza, and their families, who are living in a refugee camp in Pakistan, having fled the war in Afghanistan. The girls become friends when each finds one sandal from a matching pair, after relief workers throw used clothing […]

Gardening and Some Philosophical Questions

“The Garden” in Frog and Toad Together is another of Arnold Lobel’s delightful stories about the friends Frog and Toad, and one that is perfect for the early spring, which we’re experiencing in Seattle this month, with the cherry trees in full blossom.When Toad sees Frog’s beautiful garden, Toad decides that he too would like to […]

Happy

Mies Van Hout’s Happy explores feelings by illustrating one word – brave, surprised, proud, angry – with lively pastels of unusual-looking fish. The book is engaging and the simple structure makes it easy to discuss with children some interesting questions about feelings and emotions. What is an emotion? Are emotions and feelings the same? Do the […]

Pezzettino

Leo Lionni’s Pezzettino is the story of the small Pezzettino (which means “little piece” in Italian), who is a small orange square surrounded by other beings who are all made up of many different-colored squares. Pezzettino observes that everyone around him is “big and [does] daring and wonderful things.” He concludes that he must be […]

Picture Books and Aesthetics

I write a lot about picture books and the role they can play in encouraging children to develop their philosophical thinking. I’ve been thinking about the special role of picture books for inspiring inquiry about aesthetics. Picture books are a unique mixture of literature and visual art, and generate the discovery of meaning through a […]

Really, Really BIG Questions

The picture book Really, Really BIG Questions by British philosophy professor Stephen Law is an engaging introduction to philosophy for anyone from elementary school age through middle school. With drawings and information about science, history, literature and the history of philosophy, the book explores questions such as: How can something come from nothing? What is […]

Soap! Soap! Don’t Forget the Soap!

Soap! Soap! Don’t Forget the Soap! is an Appalachian folktale, brought to life in a great read-aloud picture book by Tom Birdseye with illustrations by Andrew Glass. The story’s main character, Pug, is a young boy “with such a poor memory some say he’d forget his own name.” One day Pug’s mother, who believes in […]

The Book Thief and Psychological Egoism

On Friday I had a marvelous discussion with a group of students in an eighth grade English class about The Book Thief, a novel by Markus Zusak. The story is told from the perspective of Death, who describes his experiences during the Holocaust, and in particular the story of a young girl living near Munich. […]

The Cricket in Times Square

One of my favorite works of children’s literature, The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, first published in 1960, is moving, funny and philosophically suggestive. In particular, the book can inspire discussion about a variety of ethical questions. The story involves Chester, a cricket, who arrives in Times Square in an accidental way from […]

The Hundred Dresses

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (1944) is a great book to inspire discussions about the nature of friendship, the ethics of being a bystander, and questions about what moral duties we owe to others. I have used this book with students from ages 8-18, usually taking three or four classes to read it together […]

The One Who Walk Away from Omelas

The Ursula LeGuin short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is a powerful story for discussing with high school students utilitarian ethics and the question of whether the suffering of one person is permissible if it brings about the greater good. The story is set in a joyful and seemingly perfect city, where […]

The Three Questions

“There once was a boy named Nikolai who sometimes felt uncertain about the right way to act. ‘I want to be a good person,’ he told his friends. ‘But I don’t always know the best way to do that.’” From The Three Questionsby Jon J. Muth Muth takes Leo Tolstoy’s short story, The Three Questions, […]