Marietta McCarty

Little Big Minds

by Marietta McCarty

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"Marietta, what a breath of fresh air this book is... this takes a totally different approach!"
― Diane Rehm (The Diane Rehm Show)

Little Big Minds is a guide for any adult to take a child into the world of wonder and awe that is at the heart of philosophy.

Children are natural philosophers, and Marietta McCarty discovered through her philosophy program for kids from kindergarten through eighth grade just how eager they are to explore ideas and to use clear thinking to understand and to improve their lives.

The book draws on McCarty’s background both as a college professor of philosophy as well as over twenty years sitting in her circles with inquisitive, bouncing child philosophers.

It gives the reader the desire and tools to engage in dialogue with kids about nature, justice, courage, time, and death, for example. The book quickly makes clear the positive effects of philosophizing as it sharpens critical thinking skills, and the practice of philosophy fosters empathy that leads to community involvement regardless of age.

Each chapter is laid out in an accessible and inviting way. First, the author explores the topic under investigation and gives new “grownup” philosophers some idea of what to expect, with the voices of her child philosophers lending insights sprinkled with endearing humor. Next, the theories of two philosophers who are especially relevant to the topic at hand are set forth clearly so that readers can share, if they choose, these ideas with their little big minds. McCarty then offers two specific approaches for delving into the topic more deeply in ways that have proven especially relevant to her child philosophers. For example, in the friendship chapter, the importance of listening and the threat posed by bullying are detailed, drawing on children’s voices and the two philosophers, bell hooks and Karl Jaspers. Dignity and children’s rights promise fertile dialogue in the chapter on justice. The joy of spontaneity and possibility of creating a future expand the analysis of freedom. Sprinkled throughout each chapter are teaching tips, just at the point that the reader may be wondering “what if?”!

Questions for conversation abound: what about the astonishment that comes from discovering resemblances in the natural world; the peace that follows philosophizing; the healing that can take place from the wounds of prejudice?


"You have captured the essence of … ‘real’ education for kids…"
― Janis Johnston, Ed.D., Family Psychologist


Scattered throughout the chapter are exercises designed to increase children’s appreciation of the topic, using art, service activities, poetry, music, and prose works: practicing calligraphy improves concentration; making lunches for children at the Salvation Army gives the concept of responsibility new meaning; writing poems based on John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud” brings a positive perspective to conversations about death; listening to Haydn’s Symphony #22, “The Philosopher,” marks an intriguing way to begin the philosophical journey; and sharing a book of dialogues between children and Rosa Parks provides an intimate look at the value of freedom. How to make the best use of these resources is explained, drawn from McCarty’s journey, and adults should feel free to use any and all resources and exercises that they find pertinent to the daily lives of their budding philosophers. If you have a favorite poem or piece of music, use it!

Little Big Minds examines philosophy from a multicultural perspective, broadening children’s appreciation of a big world while encouraging their curiosity and delight in asking good questions and indulging in rich conversation.

How much the author learns from her young student/teachers is obvious, and their wise voices ring out with passion and intelligence on every page. As an adult using this book with kids, you’re in for a good time together.


Get your copy
of Little Big Minds today!

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Signed and personalized copies are now available through Stone Soup Books.

Contact us here with the details of your request.
Books can be picked up in the Charlottesville/Waynesboro, VA area or shipped worldwide.


Italian translation available through Fabbri Bompiani. Please contact us for Chinese translation. 

Media Coverage

Interview on the Diane Rehm Show
February 15, 2007 (Replayed May 28, 2007)

Marietta speaks at The Clinton Presidential Library
November 8, 2007

Interview on “Maine Calling," Maine Public Radio
with host Keith Shortall on June 12, 2017


Featured Past Events


Praise for Little Big Minds

What Educators are saying...

On behalf of the Xavier University School of Education and Counseling Department, I would like to thank Marietta… It was fascinating to watch these young philosophers offer their ideas about “enjoying life’s simple pleasures,” “areas in which they can grow,” and “the importance of quiet reflection.” One of the teachers remarked, “I am really looking forward to … continue what Marietta started. I have always thought of my students as little philosophers, but now I have a roadmap to help facilitate these discussions…
          ― Brent G. Richardson, Ed.D. LPCC-S
                Xavier University Counseling Department Chair, Professor
                Author of Working with Challenging Youth: Seven Guiding Principles

These kids are eating it up!
          ― Amy Hunsaker, Intervention Specialist
               North Baltimore, Ohio

They will really help our people to gain more knowledge about an internationally well-known philosopher’s contribution…. We hope that your generosity will be followed by many school, college and university students and alumni here in District Dadu Sindh. 
          ― Rashid Anees Magsi
               Project Manager, Mother of Civilization Library
               Sindh, Pakistan

The kids are thinking on their own about philosophy – bringing it up in math and even social studies…
          ― Sena Norton
               Boring Middle School, Boring, Oregon

I feel so honored to be allowed to guide these seven and eight year olds as they discover how exciting education/school can be…
          ― Joan Hartigan
               Thousand Oaks, California

I know that your book was a big (huge) part of [my student’s] newfound self esteem.
          ― Amy Hunsaker, Intervention Specialist
               North Baltimore, Ohio

[I] got the green light from our principal. My class is called Big Ideas…. It sounds a little goofy, but I literally feel like I’m walking on air when I finish the class each week.
          ― Kathryn Tone
               Annandale, Virginia / Heidleberg, Germany

LBM is a perfect model of how we can explore our relationship to the world around us in a deeper way.
          ― Nina Schmidt
               Flagstaff, Arizona

[In our school we have] high school, inner city children–who are full of anger, fear, and pain… I have often said that we need a “peace” movement on campus. I just needed a starting point–you have given me that.
          ― Karen Lawrence, Principal
               Heritage High School, Baltimore, Maryland

[...] Suddenly, I decided that rather than move on to the assignment I hand in mind, I would ask them how they thought the books could be distributed fairly… they suggested 6 possibilities and discussed how the concept of first come, first served is fair and not fair. Then I asked them to tell me what fairness is. Four terrific definitions of fairness came up from this group.
          ― Susan Mills
               Bryn Mawr School, Baltimore, Maryland

The Marblehead Public schools has begun to design and implement a K-12 Philosophy curriculum, with [Little Big Minds] at the founding document for grades K-6! …one piece of an overall district goal to emphasize creative problem solving skills that honors multiple perspectives.
          ― Michael Hanna, Curriculum Director, K-12 Philosophy
               Marblehead, Massachusetts

Thank you for igniting the passion for teaching, learning, and reflecting within us all.
          ― Kate Rizzi & Kristin Peck, Teachers
               Norwood School, Bethesda, Maryland

You’ve really contributed something of immense importance. I gave your book to a student of mine … writing a senior thesis on philosophical counseling, and the ways in which critical thinking can make our lives richer and more rewarding. She loved your book, by the way — as did I! Keep on rockin’!
          ― Dr. J. Jeremy Wisnewski, Assistant Professor of Philosophy
               Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York

I teach a philosophy course on Theory of Knowledge at King High School in Tampa, Florida. … my goal is to have them do philosophy rather than study it…. I plan to implement or modify those strategies which seem most appropriate for our situation.
          ― Michael Urbas, Teacher
               King High School, Tampa, FL

I’m an Episcopal priest… finishing an MA/Ed S in school psychology… I’d like to start a “Philosophy Club” in the local middle school. I believe middle-schoolers are ripe developmentally, cognitively and socially to tackle these ‘questions of ultimate meaning’ before they enter high school, when they must make serious and far-reaching decisions regarding their future.
          ― Father Richard Wineland
               St. John of the Cross Episcopal Church, Bristol, Indiana

I have a few of my students with learning disabilities in the group… and they are really doing beautifully… We may have hope for the future yet!
          ― Amy Hunsaker, Intervention Specialist
               North Baltimore, Ohio

This resource is … indispensable.
          ― Lawrence C. Becker, Fellow of Hollins University,
               Professor of Philosophy Emeritus
               College of William & Mary

You have captured the essence of … ‘real’ education for kids…
          ― Janis Johnston, Ed.D., Family Psychologist
               Oak Park, Illinois

I am a 4th grade teacher… I really never thought I could ever do something like that and have it work so well. The kids love it and participate a lot more.
          ― Elana Divine, Teacher
               Rockville, Maryland

What Child Philosophers Are Saying...

I love philosophy because happiness is finding your center peace. I think it’s great.
          ― Tessa Moore, 3rd Grade Child Philosopher
               Locust Grove, Virginia

I LOVE philosophy because philosophy is questions, courage, peace, happiness, justice, and….awesomeness!!!
          ― Abby Tharp, 3rd Grade Child Philosopher
               Unionville, Virginia

What’s cool about philosophy is you find what nobody knows about.
          ― Nick Nammack, 3rd Grade Child Philosopher
               Locust Grove, Virginia

I like philosophy because you can learn things like justice happiness and courage. You can imagine things you never imagined before.
          ― Lanija Brown, 3rd Grade Child Philosopher,
               Unionville, Virginia

I like philosophy because it is about asking questions and answering them.
          ― Quinn Bradley, 3rd Grade Child Philosopher
               Unionville, Virginia

What Parents are saying...

Wow! I am amazed and in wonder of Marietta McCarty and her book, Little Big Minds . As the mother of three growing children (13, 9 and 7) there is so much to be mined from this book for my family and I hope to spread the word to others in my community.
          ― Marietta Nelson-Bittle
               Chesapeake, Virginia

[LBM] leads us to that common vein, that central hope for peace through clear thinking. How it speaks to us with myriad voices. How it values, contemplates, and heeds our children. How invigorating. You are brilliant.
          ― Lisa Stockwell, Mother, Teacher, Artist
               Charlottesville, Virginia

So often children are told what to think which binds their intellectual and creative growth. Philosophical exercises open children’s minds and allow their consciences to blossom. I am so grateful for your offering to the world with this wonderful book…
          ― Teresa Romano, Mother,
               Delray Beach, Florida

What readers are saying...

I've just finished reading your book 'Little Big Minds.' I'm from Melbourne, Australia and wish I could blend in to one of the children's classes you teach but alas, I'm a 39 year old woman. Having said that, it has been my good fortune to come across you book, and thank you for introducing me to pondering and developing my own little big mind. Thanks again.
          ― Kim Dellavedova
                Melbourne, Australia

I hope that you are aware of how many lives you have touched through your teaching. Now that your books are out in the world, the possibilities for lives positively affected are endless.
          ― Carla Shifflett
               Waynesboro, Virginia

Your ideas provide a whole treasure chest of ideas to continue our journey. Thank you. I am so glad to have found your wisdom.
          ― Nancy Cleckner
               St. Charles, Illinois

You’ve almost created a sacred space… and the book calls this introvert to join others in exploration.
          ― Nan Ottenritter
               Richmond, Virginia

I can’t wait to explore all the wonderful resources of poetry, music and literature that are shared in this book… inspiring.
          ― Lisa Nichols Hickman, Pastor, Teacher, Author
               New Wilmington, Pennsylvania

You touched the child in my soul and reminded me that as an adult I realize how much intellectual playfulness must be a lifelong pursuit.... Thank you for re-educating me.
          ― Ronald J. Stupak
               Walnut Creek, California

The book is quite literally a how-to on teaching philosophy. It is filled with discussion questions, resources, exercises, teaching tips and suggestions, and is structured very much like a well-written lesson plan. The content of the book, the anecdotes sprinkled throughout the text, and the sheer passion with which this book was written is truly an inspiration to the reader… Quite simply, this book inspires; it is a must-have…
          ― Anne Carter
               Charlottesville, Virginia

[I] wish I had it when I was raising my kids…
          ― Louise Wawner, Charlottesville, Virginia

The resources and suggested questions will be invaluable for curriculum development for our school program and other ArtPeace projects. I am truly grateful for the gift of your book and know that it will have a profound effect on “little big minds” of all ages!
          ― Sara R. Hughes
               ArtPeace, Inc., Rochester, New York

A ray of light!
          ― Charles Birx

As a former student of philosophy at Boston University, and for a lifetime since, I have always felt that philosophy should be taught at an early age, and the world would be a much better place for it, too. Ms. McCarty not only does that, but also shows how ready and willing the kids are for it. Bravo!
          ― Penn Butler

Congratulations on a wonderful book! I am very impressed. I hope you sell many books, but no matter how many are sold, you have undoubtedly changed many lives.
          ― Barbara Shelton
               Birmingham, Alabama

The statement, ‘Children of all ages are willing to work with a grown-up who has faith in their abilities and trusts them’ (xiii), fairly leapt off the page and grabbed me by the jugular. So true, yet where are these adults? I worry… and search for those folk as truly interested in children as you and I seem to be…
          ― B.A. Stefany, Owner & Consultant
               The Sabens Group, Jamesville, New York


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