Developing Critical Thinking Skills Through Stories

April 1, 2015 Published by

Telling your child stories has great developmental benefits – it allows them to explore their imaginations, practice their listening skills and experience new vocabulary –  as well as giving you the opportunity to spend quality time together.

It is also useful for children to develop the ability to think critically; being able to interpret and reflect on information. Critical thinking skills are required in later school life, and also help with problem solving and forming opinions about various topics.



Regularly reading to your child is an important activity to help them start reading independently. Although it’s really important that children learn to read, it doesn’t need to be a chore. There are lots of ways to make reading fun for your child and understanding how children learn to read can make it easier for parents to help.

I recently attended a great workshop on encouraging children to think about stories, led by Peter Worley, philosopher and CEO of the Philosophy Foundation.

Peter led a very interesting discussion around how you can start to develop the critical thinking skills of even young children, by asking certain questions about stories as you tell them. The key focus is to not tell your child what they should think. Rather than interpreting the story for them, asking the correct questions can help draw out their own opinions and guide their thought processes.



One idea that stood out for me, and is also easy to remember while telling your child a story, is the ‘Hokey Kokey’ method – you go into the story, then out of the story, then back in again. For example, using the book ‘Frog is a Hero’:

a) ‘in the story’ (concrete) – “Is Frog a hero?”

b) then move ‘out of the story’ (abstract) – “What is a hero?”

c) then test what is said by going ‘back in the story’ (applied) – “If that’s what a hero is, then is Frog a hero?”



Peter Worley has some really helpful books available, that include collections of stories you can tell your child as well as techniques for making story time interesting and questions like the ones above to help you encourage critical thinking.


When children are learning to read it’s easy to get hung up on the process of recognising letters, phonemes and tricky words; it’s really important that this knowledge develops alongside the ability to comprehend and analyse stories. This will help your child maintain a love of reading. Do you use these techniques when reading with your child? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.

You can see a range of great storybooks for children in our book reviews.


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This post was written by Anna Taylor

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