Creative Thinking and Problem Solving for Young Learners is an important and long-awaited book. Fortunately, Karen Meador is the right person to write such a book. She has long been in touch with the creativity of young children and is a scholar of creativity and problem solving. Teachers, parents, and grandparents especially will find this book an exciting adventure.
The author is thoroughly familiar with children's books and their use in learning creativity and problem-solving skills. While she primarily provides examples from trade books, teachers will find that regular school textbooks can be used in the same ways. Reading, history, geography, and other social science books are especially rich in possibilities. Thirty years ago, I served as creativity consultant to a major publisher of reading books. The editors, authors, illustrators, and graphics people became very enthusiastic and produced new products that exceeded my expectations. Not only the stories themselves, but also the illustrations and the print could be used to teach creativity and problem-solving skills.
Let me give an example from the first reader in the series. The book is entitled A Duck Is a Duck and contains a story entitled [What Is It?] It begins with a two-page illustration of four children followed by a dog on their way to school. The children try, to get the dog to go back home, but the dog finds something in the bushes. After some time they discover that it is a turtle and talk about all the things that the turtle can do. After considering the alternatives, they decide to put the turtle in a box and take it to school. The children ask the teacher to guess what is in the box. The teacher asks the children to give her some clues. Finally she guesses correctly, and the children unveil their prize. Then, the problem becomes what to do with the turtle. The teacher has the children brainstorm possible solutions. After doing this, they establish a criterion: what the turtle likes to do. They decide to put the turtle into the pool in the park and proceed to do this; they make sure that the turtle could do all the things turtles like to do.
This story teaches not only the problem-solving process, but also beginning reading skills, such as reading or interpreting the illustrations, and a beginning reading vocabulary of 16 words with practice with additional words they had already mastered. The teacher could extend the [what is it?] lesson by placing some commonplace object in a box and having the children guess its contents. Other creative and problem-solving skills can be taught by turning the reading into a creative drama or role-playing exploration. This makes the reading more realistic and reveals other problems and conflicts.
I would like to say a few words about the consequences of these kinds of learning. On the basis of my experience, I can assure you that, if the lessons are skillfully and enthusiastically done, you can count upon the following outcomes: