Create Your Own Module
Teaching Children Philosophy is a collaborative venture. The book modules on this site represent the work of educators, professors, philosophers and college students. A vast majority of the book modules on this site were created by students in Thomas Warternberg’s Philosophy for Children undergraduate courses. We welcome submissions from anyone who is engaged and committed to the work of teaching children philosophy.
Guidelines for creating a module for submission
1. Choose a book
Although any children’s book can be used to teach philosophy, there are some books that are particularly suited to doing so. Generally speaking, books that have clear morals such as Aesop’s Fables are not well-suited since our goal is to find issues on which children can disagree. That’s hard to do with a book that tells you its moral, but not impossible. It just means that the questions have to be especially well-designed. When you have found a book you think is suitable, make sure it is in print (and therefore easily accessible to educators and parents) by doing a search on amazon.com.
2. Write a question set
You need to develop a question set consisting of at least three or four sets of questions. How many you need depends on your book. The idea is that this will allow others who want to teach the book but have no philosophical background to do so. Please see any of our existing book modules for examples of question sets.
3. Prepare a philosophical introduction
The idea here is to give a parent or teacher some background in the philosophical issues that you raise in your questions about your book. You need to be concise and very clear, using no jargon that will be off-putting to the general public. Again, consult the book modules on this site for guidance.
The thought of discussing philosophical issues with kids can be intimidating to those without any philosophical training. We want to help put educators’ and parents’ minds at ease by giving them a sense of what issues are addressed in the question set. So, to begin, you need to be very clear on what issues you have raised in your questions. Then, what you need to do is to tell them a bit about the philosophy of the issue.
For Arnold Lobel’s story “Dragons and Giants,” one might start the philosophical introduction like this:
Bravery is one of a set of concepts that philosophers have called “virtues.” These terms all refer to types of behavior that are deemed admirable. Other examples of virtues include “patience” and “self-control.” Virtue theory is one of the basic approaches to philosophical ethics.
When it comes to thinking about specific virtues, such as courage or bravery, philosophers disagree about a range of different questions. For example, it might seem that there are certain people whose work entails that they always act courageously, like a fireman or a policeman. The feature of their work that seems important here is that it is dangerous. So a fireman must be brave because he must confront dangerous situations as part of his job. But not all acts that are dangerous are courageous, nor are all acts that in which someone faces a danger courageous….
Again, the idea is to help the facilitator understand what the issues are that the question sets raise based upon this story.
Don’t make your introduction too long. You don’t want to intimidate the adult by having an overwhelming amount of information that they will feel they have to assimilate before beginning to talk to the kids. But be sure to give a sufficiently clear survey of the issues.
4. Upload your book module using the submission form below
Please note that while we welcome submissions and will review each one, we cannot guarantee publication on the site. We will respond to each submission we receive in a timely manner.
Further suggestions for your book module
- Be clear about what the philosophical issues your question sets raise are, such as “What makes an action brave?”, and specify what philosophers have said about it. In order to develop this part of your philosophical introduction, you probably will have to do some research. There are a variety of different sources that you might wish to look at:
- Once you have researched your topics, present the results in clearly written prose. You need to indicate different positions that philosophers have taken on the topics, so that the teacher/facilitator gets a sense of what the children might say. The introduction will help them recognize when the children are actually making interesting philosophical points.
- You can indicate some of the ways in which the story presents the issues you have discussed if you think that will be helpful. Remember not to use this introduction to show off your knowledge of philosophy. The names of philosophers are not helpful and, often, neither are specific philosophical terms. Sometimes, though, as you outline different positions on an issue it is helpful to use philosophical terms.