Blogger AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee

Growth Mindset

I attended the Early Learning with Families development training this May. This meeting focused on two subjects: Elements of Playtime and Growth Mindset. This blog will refer to Growth Mindset.

Hands holding a small plant growing out of dirt

Growth Mindset

Think about the term “mindset.” Now, think about the way people perceive themselves in terms of their intelligence, talents, and personal potential. Dr. Carol Dweck compares fixed mindset and growth mindset when assessing the responses people give to a frustrating experience in her book Mindset.  According to Dweck, people with a fixed mindset find it difficult recovering from failure. Moreover, they feel they deserve the poor experience for being foolish or just because life is unfair and there isn’t much they can do to change bad experiences. On the other hand, Dweck reports that people with a growth mindset see failure as an opportunity to learn and try things differently next time. [1]

[1]See Dweck (2006) especially the heading on chapter 1 “A view from the Two Mindsets,” for further distinction between fixed and growth mindsets.

In other words, a growth mindset is always learning and open to change. People with growth mindset think intelligence can be developed and that through hard work we can accomplish goals, even if they fail. In fact, growth mindset normalizes failure and focuses on the process more than the end product. Therefore, if a student receives a C in a test, growth mindset will determine whether more study and work is needed and the fixed mindset will adopt a feeling of failure due to predictable poor performance when testing.

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset
Thinks you are born with talents Thinks you can develop talents
Appreciates being smart Appreciates learning
Content with comment “you must be very smart” Content with comment “you must have worked hard”
You are born with an unchangeable intelligence Intelligence can be developed with work
Gives up easily when faced with difficulties

Practices resilience


Marina Krakovsky starts her story TheEffort Effectby referring to a meeting between Dr. Dweck and a group from a United Kingdom soccer team, the Blackburn Rovers. Here, performance director Tony Faulkner states that players that are considered natural talents are less likely to train hard.[2]They feel they have an innate skill from birth and do not need further development. This fixed mindset belief also accentuates the misconception that hard work applies only to the players that are not as talented as the “natural” ones. What is missing from this fixed mindset equation of talent vs work is that growth mindset focuses on the effort, the mind that is open to challenges, and sees these challenges as an opportunity for learning and developing further.

For librarians, growth mindset opens a portal of opportunities. Whenever we are interacting with children and students we can use a narrative that is conductive to ignite curiosity, discussion, and signal sincere interest without judgement. For example, we can say:

“I notice you are reading “Wonder,” I read this book with my Book Club. What do you think of the story? By avoiding personal judgement sentences such as “I loved this novel,” you are sending the subliminal message that it is not about you, but the student.

[2]See The Effort Effect(March/April 2007) Taken from the Stanford Magazine. Retrieved from

You can also say:

  • “Tell me more about…” Here the idea is to encourage the expression of ideas.
  • “I notice you painted a purple tree” instead of saying “that is a beautiful tree.” You focus on the work itself instead of a partial value.
  • “I can see you work hard on your project…” instead of saying “you are so smart, your project looks great.” The focus is on the process and work instead of the talent.”

Picture book photo of title Rabbit & Possum by Dana Wulfekotte example of growth mindset

Last, I invite you to read Dana Wulfekotte’s picture book Rabbit & Possum. This is the story of a possum who is so scared when he hears a noise that he climbs a tree and is unable to help himself find a solution to his predicament. On the contrary, his friend Rabbit keeps trying to find ways to get Possum down the tree. Rabbit tries different methods and every time a method fails, he thinks of another plan refusing to give up. This story encompasses a clear example of a fixed versus a growth mindset. When you read it in a storytime, let children tell you how would they bring Possum down the tree and what would they do differently if they were in Possum’s shoes?

Kathia Ibacache, is a Youth Services Librarian at Simi Valley Public Library. She has worked as a music teacher and Early Music Performer, and earned her MLIS from San José State University and a DMA from the University of Southern California. She loves to read realistic fiction and horror stories, and has a special place in her heart for film music.

One comment

  1. Axtschmiede

    Just gorgeous 🙂

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