Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three Books for Skeptical Kids

Teaching my kids to think skeptically as they are bombarded with information and various worldviews is of great importance to me. I've said it before, but as a homeschooling mom, my goal is to teach my children how to think and not what to think. Of course we learn math facts, grammar rules, and history, but more important than filling their heads with particular knowledge now, is teaching them to love learning and to continue schooling themselves for their entire lives. To this end, here are three great books for teaching kids to approach life skeptically!

1. Bonnie loved reading The Magic Detectives. The book features thirty short real-life mysteries, from Bigfoot to the Shroud of Turin to UFO sightings. After studying each case, the reader can think it over before flipping the page to read the solution to the mystery. Bonnie flew through it, then we adapted one of the suggested assignments in the back of the book. She wrote a small essay on the ethical difference between tricks used by phony "psychics" and stage magicians.

2. Nibbling on Einstein's Brain: The Good, the Bad and the Bogus in Science is another great book for budding skeptics. This book teaches kids to spot bad science, question new information, maintain a watch on the media, avoid their own mental pitfalls, and to employ lifelong strategies to think clearly and critically about science. The format is fun and easy to read for late elementary and middle school aged kids. I particularly appreciated the lessons on critiquing advertising, as I'm trying hard to teach Bonnie to see the dangers of television for herself.

3. Bonnie and I read How Do You Know It's True?: Discovering the Difference Between Science & Superstition aloud together. It's a little heavy, but we paused often and enjoyed reading it. Bonnie was moved by the account of the Salem witch trials, which we'd also discussed previously in history. I love the author's definition of superstition: "A superstition is a belief that is held despite evidence that it is not true. Superstitions are based on the belief that some people, plants, animals, planets, stars, words, numbers, or special things have magical powers...Superstitions are examples of fairy-tale thinking. But, unlike fairy tales, which people know are imaginative fiction, superstitions are wrongly believed to be true." Well said!

Have you found any other good books for little skeptics? Especially for younger readers?


  1. I just ordered Magic Detectives and Nibbliing on Einstein's Brain. It'll be interesting how our 9 and 6 year-old reacts to them.

  2. I love the idea that you teach your kids how to think not what to think. What a great way of saying that. We are going to look into the Magic Detectives, thanks for the recommendation. I don't have a specific recommendation for you right now, but I did discover Homeschool Literature which is a site with books for, about, and by homeschoolers. Maybe you can find something interesting there.
    Happy Homeschooling,

  3. All good books!
    "How do you know it's true' is a book I've read many times to the kids...they always seem to hear something new!
    Good list.

    How about "Maybe Yes, Maybe No". Another one to read and reread to little ones.
    "Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong"
    "Our Family Tree: An Evolution Tale" is quite lovely.
    "What About Gods" by Chris Brockman.