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- author Jackie French

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Guest Post: Encouraging a Growth Mindset Through Picture Books

Growth mindset theory is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, Carol Dweck through her research on achievement and success.

Her research on how both adults and children interacted with the world and solved problems brought to the forefront the idea that intelligence is malleable instead of something innate and fixed.

Not surprisingly, there is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding this breakthrough discovery, especially when it comes to young children.

As an example, a recent national survey in the United States showed that 98% of teachers feel that growth mindset approaches should be adopted in schools. Nevertheless, there is also a lot of frustration when it comes to practical steps on how to implement the strategy effectively.

Strong voices such as Carl Hendrick the co-author of What Does This Look Like in the Classroom? Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice (2017) state that it’s increasingly unclear whether attempts to change students’ mindsets about their abilities have any positive effect on their learning at all.

I may be biased but I am not alone in my belief that wordless picture book art illustrations (increasingly popular even among older and/or sophisticated readers) are ideally suited to foster a growth mindset by presenting children with rewarding opportunities for interpretive discussions. In other words, by allowing children to take ownership of the story, wordless picture books gift readers with the unique opportunity of transforming into storytellers in their own right instead of simply probing the book pages for clues on the author’s intentions.

It is precisely this sense of creative freedom through self-directed engagement with book illustrations that present young readers with a transformative teachable moment in a way that feels meaningful to them and relevant to their worldview while simultaneously expanding their understanding of it. This is how the seeds of growth mindset and playful engagement are planted organically thus enabling children to expand their cache of intellectual, emotional and cultural knowledge using age appropriate concepts.

Picture books can be used in myriad ways to further hone children’s ability to navigate through their life in a spirit of constant learning. Open ended picture books, especially, do a great job in acknowledging that children thrive when they create, experiment and discover things they enjoy.

Books such as, Here Comes Ingo present a unique opportunity to let the imagination soar by adding to the story via painting, drawing and writing ON the page thus encouraging kids to appreciate and include process art in their daily lives in order to search for and create new meaning, test their comfort zone and take risks.

By Odeta Xheka

Odeta Xheka is a NYC artist and busy mum in a quest to connect people with art in truly meaningful and enriching ways starting from early childhood. You can find her work at Odeta Xheka Visuals.