If you follow this page, read my books, or just like what I do online, then you know that I’m on a mission. I want parents to view critical thinking as a “family value.” Something that you always teach your kids. Just like putting on a seatbelt in the car, brushing your teeth, and wearing a helmet. Asking questions, staying skeptical, and thinking critically should become a normal part of what it means to raise healthy kids in the modern world.
But there is one small problem for parents who agree with my mission: resources are thin. There are my books of course. And there are websites like this one. But they are mostly for middle school kids. What about the youngest children? Those that are just learning to read? Luckily there is a new book that has you covered.
“Think Like A Detective: A Kid’s Guide to Critical Thinking” by David Pakman is a much needed resource for parents who want to help their youngest children learn the basics about critical thinking. The story follows a young boy named Daniel who loves solving mysteries. Readers are encouraged to help Daniel become a great detective by using their own “powers of observation, questioning, and reasoning.”
It’s worth pausing a moment to appreciate what an important message this is for young children. How many of them are even introduced to the idea that they can use “their own reasoning?” Many young kids never even encounter this word until much later in their education. Pakman is signaling to children, and their parents, that kids are capable of much more than most adults believe.
Research supports this idea. Starting in the 1980s a revolution took place in the study of children’s cognitive development. Most people don’t know that it happened, as it isn’t the kind of revolution that makes headlines. But among those who are in the field a new way of understanding children’s thinking began to take hold. Led by researchers like Dr. Allison Gopnik, psychologists began to use more sophisticated eye-tracking technology and better research design to test children’s ability to think critically all the way down to toddlerhood. The result? It was discovered that young children not only can think critically, but in many ways they are better at critical thinking than adults. Yet many of us are stuck in the past, holding on to notions of cognitive development that go all the way back to the 1950s. Many of us still believe that young children live in a world of make-believe that not only can’t include critical thinking, but might be ruined by critical thinking. But research shows that the opposite is true. The magical world that children inhabit is infused with the kind of questioning, testing, and reasoning, that we adults use all the time. In fact, it is part and parcel of what makes it so magical. Thankfully, the revolution in developmental psychology is beginning to reach the popular culture and change how we see children. Books like Pakman’s are a signal that change is arriving.
If you don’t know who David Pakman is, then you should look for him online, where he hosts a show. The David Pakman Show is primarily devoted to political and cultural commentary. Pakman brings on interesting academics and thinkers, like the cognitive neuroscientist Bobby Azarian, and that is how I found out about him.
But what is unusual about Pakman is that he routinely interviews people with whom he disagrees and tries to understand their perspective through Socratic dialogue. It is fascinating to watch, and it often reminds me of the kinds of dialogue taught in Street Epistemology (he also interviews Peter Boghossian the creator of street epistemology). Pakman works with reporters who go to political events, such as Trump rallies, where they interview people about what they believe and why. Through all these interactions Pakman has been voicing an urgent concern: we need to make critical thinking a bigger priority in our culture.
He’s right. Whenever I learn about a new problem, whether it is an MLM scam, a parenting trend that is hurting kids, or a conspiracy theory making the rounds online, there is always one suspect leaving its fingerprints at the cognitive crime scene: a lack of critical thinking. Pakman sees it clearly on his show, whether he is interviewing a conspiracy theorist pastor, the creator of revisionist history propaganda videos, or Trump rally attendees. Having seen these folks up close, Pakman urges parents and educators to focus more on teaching critical thinking skills to children. This makes Pakman is a fellow-traveler with many psychologists, developmental researchers, and parents who now view teaching critical thinking to kids as key to building a better future.
“Think Like A Detective: A Kid’s Guide to Critical Thinking” is Pakman’s contribution to that future. The book is beautifully illustrated, with gorgeous images that will capture children’s attention, and engages children with its playful themes and fun characters. But what makes it truly special is its focus on critical thinking, which is an essential skill for success in today’s world. Through the adventures in the book, children learn how to ask questions, evaluate information, and focus on evidence, all while helping Daniel solve the mysteries in the book.
Overall, “Think Like A Detective: A Kid’s Guide to Critical Thinking” is an excellent resource for parents, teachers, and anyone who wants to help children develop their critical thinking skills. It’s a fun and engaging way to introduce young readers to this important topic and inspire them to become more curious, creative, and confident thinkers. Highly recommended!