Children's Minds

Children's Minds

Children's Minds

Children's Minds


Developmental psychologist Margaret Donaldson shows that much of the intellectual framework on which we base our teaching is misleading. We both underestimate the astonishing rational powers of young children and ignore the major stumbling block that children face when starting school.

Given a setting and a language that makes sense to them in human terms, very young children can perform tasks often thought to be beyond them. The preschool child learns everything in a human situation. Only in school is he asked to acquire skills- reading, writing, arithmetic- isolated from a real-life context. This transition is difficult.

The author suggests a range of strategies that parents and schools can adopt to help children. She argues that reading is even more important than we have thought it to be, since learning to read ca actually speed children through the crucial transition.

This book is an essential source of guidance for parents and all who contribute to a child's education.


In the course of this book I argue that the evidence now compels us to reject certain features of Jean Piaget's theory of intellectual development. It may seem odd, then, if my first acknowledgment of indebtedness is to a man whose work I criticize. Yet the indebtedness is there and the acknowledgment is certainly due. Many years ago he was kind enough to welcome me to the Institut des Sciences de l'Education in Geneva; and much of my subsequent research was stimulated by the excitement of that first visit. If I must now reject some of his teaching, no lessening of respect for the man or for his vast contribution to knowledge is implied. No theory in science is final; and no one is more fully aware of this than Piaget himself. I should add further that, while the early chapters of the book propose certain reinterpretations, much that is said later is, I believe, in no way incompatible with Piaget's views and has certainly been influenced by them in positive ways.

During the last ten or twelve years, I have had the good fortune to work in Edinburgh with a number of extremely able colleagues and graduate students. In the mid-I960s I began a study of preschool children in collaboration with Roger Wales, George Balfour, Robin Campbell, John Taylor, and Brian Young; and Eve Curme also worked with us for a while before she married Herbert Clark and went to America, to our considerable loss. Later, as members of the original group left, others came: Robert Grieve, Barbara Wallington, Peter Lloyd, Michael Garman, Patrick Griffiths, Lesley Hall, Martin . . .

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