Critical Thinking Skills

teenage girl reading book on grass, summertime lifestyle

Teaching children to think critically — when they are reading and when listening to what people say — is a skill that will benefit them their entire life. Here are some ways that other parents have trained their kids in this important cognitive area: 

Ways to Cultivate Discerning Readers

Here is how I help my kids select good reading material:

  • I model healthy choices in what I stockpile on my nightstand.
  • I casually recommend worthwhile reads, explaining what I liked — interesting plot, deftly drawn characters, a redemptive theme.
  • Sharing a Kindle account helps me keep tabs on what's being downloaded — and is a great method for sharing the books I find worthwhile.
  • When a movie is based on a book (and is acceptable to see), we talk about the merits of characters' actions, and I encourage them to read the book.
  • I point out how, or even if, a book's content exemplifies a biblical worldview.

—Jane Johnson Struck

Books and Critical Thinking

Our children will eventually come to understand that not everyone in our communities, our country or the world share our beliefs. There will be times when kids read opinions that directly contradict what they've learned at home and in church.

As a parent, you can help your child build a strong foundation in critical-reading skills, and help them examine exactly what messages are being communicated:

  • Inform your child about different beliefs. Explain that a worldview is behind everything he reads, and it requires careful thought to decide whether the source is trustworthy.
  • Point out loaded expressions and terminology. Ask your child, "How can words sway our thinking, either positively or negatively?"
  • Encourage your child to discuss ideas she's read. The time spent contemplating different beliefs with discernment will strengthen and develop your child's faith.

—Kirsetin Morello

The compiled article "Motivating Kids to Read" first appeared on (2016). "Ways to Cultivate Discerning Readers" first appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Thriving Family magazine and was titled "Ways to Cultivate Discerning Teen Readers"; "Books and Critical Thinking Skills" first appeared in the August/September 2012 issue of Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

"Motivating Kids to Read" compiled article © 2016 by Focus on the Family. "Ways to Cultivate Discerning Readers" © 2014 by Jane Johnson Struck; "Books and Critical Thinking Skills" © 2012 by Kirsetin Morello. Used by permission.

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