Challenging Children to Think: Using Reading to Teach Critical and Creative Thinking

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Wanda Teays


Reading instruction at the elementary level provides the foundation for much of what is considered to be an education. It is an essential enabling skill for such subject areas as science, social studies, and writing. However, if teachers limit students’ interaction with a book to what they recall about a story, a character, or the sequence of events, the students will probably remember a list of facts about the passage that has been read. An ability to remember facts is a part of comprehension. A good memory for details, however, does not guarantee that the reader has developed any understanding about what has occurred in the story or has given the material any thought. Of what use is a database that a person cannot use? The teaching of critical and creative thinking skills within the context of the reading program can provide students with the tools that will enable them to think about what they have read. This thesis utilizes a thinking skills approach which will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter One. Through direct instruction of the skills, students can identify what skill they are using and why it is appropriate to use it in a particular situation. Such instruction should also include reflection on the process of thinking. Students need to take time to share how they figure problems out and hear about techniques that others use. Finally, they need to see how thinking can be used in everyday life so they will not use it as something that is only used at school. Unfortunately, students have difficulty with assignments that require them to think about that they have read. P. David Pearson reports that assessment instruments such as the 1981 National Assessment of Educational Progress indicate that thirteen and seventeen year old students are not scoring well on comprehension questions that require them to interpret and draw inferences (Pearson, 1985, 725). Testing done in April 1986 through the Massachusetts Department of Education also indicate students’ inability to go beyond questions that demanded more than a literal understanding of a passage (Mass. Dept. of Ed., 1987, 11). Education systems that (i) purchase reading series from nationally recognized publishers; and (ii) require a certain number of hours per week to be allotted to reading instruction have somehow failed to teach comprehension beyond a literal level. This seems an impossible situation, unless one considers the types of activities associated with the teaching of reading. Teachers, generally, do not ask students to think about what they read. They simply ask them to remember what is read.


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