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10 of the Best Children’s Books That Promote Critical Thinking

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Mikkaka Overstreet

Senior Contributor

Mikkaka Overstreet is from Louisville, Kentucky by way of Saginaw “Sagnasty”, Michigan. She has been an educator since 2006 and earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction in 2015. By day she is a mild-mannered literacy specialist. By night she sleeps. In between, she daydreams, writes fiction, and reads books. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and cats.

If you’re reading a post about children’s books that promote critical thinking, I assume you see the value in raising strong thinkers. Whether you’re a caregiver, educator, or potential employer, you want society’s children to develop complex reasoning and problem-solving skills. These qualities benefit us all.

Unfortunately, there are people and groups more interested in an industrious than a thoughtful population. The general public doesn’t agree on the purpose of public education. Neither, it seems, do education stakeholders. During recent remarks, North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt declared 2022 “the year of the workforce.”

Truitt explained, “We have got to redefine what the purpose of K–12 education is. Some would say it’s to produce critical thinkers, but my team and I believe that the purpose of a public K–12 education is to prepare students for the postsecondary plans of their choice so that they can be a functioning member of the workforce.”

While that statement makes my skin crawl, it’s more than unsettling: it’s contradictory. Employers regularly cite problem-solving and critical thinking skills as ideal qualities they seek in employees. According to a study from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 95% of employers view critical thinking specifically as “very important” or “somewhat important.” Thus, preparing kids to think critically is preparing them for the workforce — and beyond.

Undoubtedly, our society needs more critical thinkers. We have lots of problems, both old and new, that will require innovative solutions. The following books will help encourage the next generation of big thinkers.

10 Children’s Books That Promote Critical Thinking

Cover of The Year We Learned to Fly

The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López

The incomparable Jacqueline Woodson has done it again. In this newly released children’s book, readers journey into the vivid imaginations of the central characters. Woodson tells the story of children stuck inside because of bad weather. Rather than succumb to boredom, the children use their imaginations to escape the confines of their apartment. Surely, this will inspire children to dream big.

cover of What do you do with an idea?

What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom

This inspiring picture book centers on a child with an idea. We get to follow the child as they nurture the idea and watch it grow. Undoubtedly, this simple story will resonate with anyone who has ever been afraid to share their big dreams with the world.

cover of Shadow by Suzy Lee

Shadow by Suzy Lee

This gorgeous wordless picture book is a guaranteed hit. The young protagonist uses her imagination and her shadow to create a fantasy world. Mirrored illustrations show both the true objects and the magical world the girl has built.

cover of going places

Going Places by Peter H. Reynolds and Paul A. Reynolds

I’m a big fan of Peter H. Reynolds’s work. He has a whimsical style and encourages creativity and self-love in his several excellent picture books. In this story, written with his twin brother, Reynolds introduces us to another uniquely wonderful protagonist. Maya enters a go-cart competition and must create a winning vehicle out of one of the identical kits given to all contestants. Of course, Maya doesn’t think inside the box she’s given. This is another fun story with a great lesson.

cover of mistakes are how I learn

Mistakes Are How I Learn by Kiara Wilson

As we all know, mistakes are a part of the learning process. In this encouraging book, Wilson reminds kids to give themselves grace and space to make mistakes. Similar to The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes, this book is a good reminder for little perfectionists.

cover of duck rabbit

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

This picture book takes the well-known duck or rabbit puzzle and tells a story. Obviously, readers will feel compelled to see both sides of this argument. This is a humorous introduction to considering varying viewpoints.

cover of seven blind mice

Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young

In this Caldecott Honor winner, seven blind mice try to determine the identity of an unfamiliar object. In Young’s take on the classic Indian tale, each mouse only gathers partial information. Of course, it takes the wisdom of the seventh mouse to put the pieces together and solve the puzzle.

cover of what to do with a box

What To Do With A Box by Jane Yolen and Chris Sheban

You can probably guess what’s going to happen in this book, right? Clearly, there’s a metaphor here. Enjoy all the things a child can imagine with outside-of-the-box thinking in this rhythmic tale.

cover of they all saw a cat

They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel

This book brilliantly executes a creative concept. Using strange and gorgeous illustrations, Wenzel depicts how differently individuals can perceive the same object. Consequently, readers are pushed to consider multiple viewpoints and how our perceptions color what we see.

solutions for cold feet and other little problems cover

Solutions for Cold Feet and Other Little Problems by Carey Sookocheff

Follow one little girl and her dog through the challenges of a normal day in this fun story. The girl asks lots of questions and persists when she encounters problems. This tale will inspire kiddos to see problem-solving as a positive and necessary part of life.

Hopefully, you’ve found something on this list that inspires you to think and dream. If you’d like more content like this, check out 7 Board Books for Woke Babies and 10 Science Books for Curious Kiddos. Read, think, and dream BIG!