In Spark!Lab, we love to read! Children’s literature is filled with silly stories, catchy rhymes, and fascinating information presented in fun ways. Books spark curiosity, inspire wonder, introduce children to new perspectives, and offer inspiration.
I recently read the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ paper, Growing Young Minds: How Museums and Libraries Create Lifelong Learners, about the important role museums and libraries play in the lives of young learners. One assertion in the report stuck with me: “Children who read a lot know a lot. Those who don’t read as much lack reading speed and comprehension, reducing knowledge acquisition.” Books are an important tool to help students build their vocabulary, expand their independent learning skills, and develop their executive functions.
Because books play an essential role in how children learn, we contextualize each of our of our hands-on invention activities with books and stories to help inspire invention and explore how other people have solved a problem in the past.
Here are some of my favorite books to encourage inventive thinking and help your child grow.
This book is a joyful celebration of imagination, an important skill for every inventor. This wonderfully simple book is an ode to the world of make believe that every kid experiences when, through play, something ordinary becomes extraordinary. On each page you get to experience the joy of letting your inventive thinking take over and imagine what could be.
The unnamed main character demonstrates so many of the skills that children practice when they visit Spark!Lab: problem-solving, critical thinking, resiliency, and resourcefulness. She models many of the steps of the invention process. First, she thinks of the problem she’d liked to solve. She “has a wonderful idea. . . . She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work.” After sketching her invention, she then builds her first prototype. When she gives it a try and it doesn’t work, she tweaks, and tweaks, and tweaks again. When one idea doesn’t work, she iterates on her design until ultimately she ends up with an invention she can use.
Sometimes it feels like the world wants to divide people into one of two categories—“creatives” and “non-creatives”—and so many people resign themselves to being in the latter group. In Spark!Lab, we believe creativity is a skill, something you have to practice, a muscle you have to flex for it to get stronger. This book beautifully illustrates why it is so important to practice that skill and regain our creative confidence. It’s a reminder for kids and grown-ups alike that we don’t always have to get things just right. Thinking “ish-ly,” thinking without worry, can lead to something amazing.
This book uses sketch-like illustrations and the thousand (or rather ten hundred), most used words to help explain complicated ideas. It turns out it’s not as easy as you might think! In Spark!Lab we use this book to help kids understand technical inventions using the words they know best.
For more great ideas, check out this full list of books to encourage inventive thinking.