Reading and Creativity: Ask QUESTIONS that engage CREATIVE THINKING

by Matthew Worwood

Questions leading to direct and simple answers do not improve […] thinking skills.

As parents we hear that regularly reading to our child is one of the most important contributions we can make to their educational development. In this article I’m going to reflect on the ways this pastime might enhance Creativity by asking questions that go beyond merely recalling information, and instead challenge skills in Creative Thinking – with specific examples at the end of the article.

My wife and I started reading to our boys as soon as they were born, and while I confess it can be difficult to make this happen every night, we’ve obviously done it enough to establish a routine, where they both happily jump up on the couch when presented with a book.

See Also: What id your child’s imagination could soar!

It's important to start reading young. Start with baby books that show pictures with contrasting colors.

We’re advise to read baby books that show pictures with contrasting colors.

As I begin to reflect on the relationship between reading and creativity, I look at my son’s love of making stories, that not only have a clear beginning, middle and end, but also a resolution integrated at the end of the story. Below is one of his short stories that we turned into a movie.

Looking at the subject of Reading and Creativity a little further, I’ve recently accessed some articles on the subject, and found that asking questions that stimulate the thinking process is one of the most important things we can do when reading to our children.

‘Questions leading to direct and simple answers do not improve […] thinking skills. However questions related to old and new information and which leads the individual to reach some particular values are beneficial for thinking skills.’*

What does this mean? Well I think its safe to say that we’re ok asking our toddlers to point out the Chicken, or the Duck, but as they get older we need to find ways to challenge our children to evaluate the new information they’ve been presented with, and combine it with what they already understand in order to make judgments or reach new discoveries.

Here are some specific examples:

  • For a new book you can start with the front cover and challenge your child to tell you what the story is about, and then follow up with questions on how they reached their conclusions.
  • When reading the new book you can engage your child’s imagination by challenging them to tell you how they think the problem will be solved. Again follow up with questions on how they’ve reached their conclusions. You might even ask them if the story/ or problem reminds them of another book you’ve read together.
  • Things can become more challenging when you revisit the book for a second or third time, but actually there’s an opportunity to engage creative thinking by asking the child to relate the story to their own experiences. For instance, you could cask them would do if the Big Bad Wolf knocked on their door, or if you want to challenge them further – help them identify the wolfs problem (he’s hungry) and then ask them to find another solution that doesn’t hurt the little pigs.

There’s a lot of information here, but the main take away is when reading, ask questions that engage thinking, and avoid those that are closed ended (have a yes or no response) or merely require them to recite what you just read.

To conclude – Read, Read, and Read (but don’t force it if a routine hasn’t been established).

*Nevin Akkaya, M. Volkan Deirel (2012)

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Matthew Worwood
Matthew Worwood is an educator, Creative Studies scholar-practitioner, and co-host of the Fueling Creativity in Education podcast. He is a professor of Digital Media Design at the University of Connecticut and a husband and proud father to three young boys.

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