Thomas Wartenberg

Host of Little Voices, Big Ideas

Thomas E. Wartenberg is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Mount Holyoke College. He has published two books related to the idea of philosophy for children: Big Ideas for Little Kids: Teaching Philosophy Through Children’s Literature (Rowman and Littlefield, 2nd Edition 2014), and A Sneetch is A Sneetch and Other Philosophical Discoveries: Finding Wisdom in Children’s Literature (Wiley Blackwell, 2013). The program that he founded, Teaching Children Philosophy, was awarded the 2011 APA/PDC Prize for Excellence and Innovations in Philosophy Programs. He has created two other websites for discussing philosophy with young people: whatsthebigideaprogram.com and museumphilosophy.com. He received the 2013 Merritt Prize for his contributions to the philosophy of education. His course, Philosophy for Children, is the subject of a PBS documentary (accessible at http://wgby.org/bigideas) which won a New England Emmy in 2015.

My book choice is  Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel. The stories in this book raise really important questions about central ethical concepts in our lives. The very simplicity of the stories is deceiving, for the issues that are raised are important ones: bravery, self-control, being alone, friendship. Despite being a classic, it remains relevant to students today and the concerns they have/face.

Maurice Sendak / Harper & Row

Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, takes readers on an extraordinary journey into the imagination of the wildest thing of all--the young and precocious Max.

Banished to his bedroom for bad behavior, Max sails across weeks and over a year to the land of the wild things, a bunch of misbehaving creatures who want nothing more than to rumpus till they can rumps no more. But when the bandying about is over, Max discovers he misses his home, and the very person who banished him in the first place: his mother.

Holiday House / Holiday House

 

There’s plenty of attention given to the pursuit of “happily ever after” in stories of all sorts. But how should we go about acquiring happiness? Is there a right or wrong way to do it?

Anansi the spider, the thieving trickster at the heart of Eric Kimmel’s Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock, offers up an opportunity for pushing past mere moralizing toward more nuanced conversations about when tricks cross over into deception territory--and even when a seemingly harmless little lie may not be seen as such by others. 

 

E.B. Lewis / G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

Of all the difficult subjects deserving of discussion with children, race and racism are perhaps the most required, and least easy to address.