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Teaching Values with Picture Books

by Miriam Downey 1. December 2011 14:11


The other morning I was reading my baby granddaughter a Little Golden Book version of The Little Red Hen,and it brought back so many memories of telling her mother the same story with its moral--only those who help should reap the rewards. Those old stories, Aesop's fables, fairy tales, and folk tales teach moral values in interesting ways. They don't hit the child over the head with the message. The story itself tells the message. These are the stories that we all know and remember. How many times have we said, "Are you crying wolf?" or "Slow and steady wins the race."or "You're really in the lion's den!"

Some picture books are written in what we would call a didactic style--they tell the reader: "You are going to learn this moral value" and then the book goes on to teach the value. There was a series of books that came out about 30 years ago that had cute characters, and each book taught some aspect of good behavior. They were cute for one reading, but none of my children wanted to hear them over and over in the way they wanted to hear Where the Wild Things Are or Horton Hatches the Egg, both books that teach by example.

The Veggie Tale books and videos are an example of some delightful didactic books that teach moral values. If you recall your Bible stories, however, you know that the values taught in the Bible stories we tell children are not taught in didactic ways; they teach by example. For instance, in the story of the little boy and the loaves and fishes, the value of generosity is taught by the child's example.

One of the best resources for books that teach moral values is Books That Build Character by William Kilpatrick (Simon and Schuster, 1994). Although the book is nearly 20 years old, it is of immense value in helping parents find books for their children.

Recently I came across a list of books that teach values and morals in non-didactic ways as they deal with the universal problems of childhood. Some of the books on the list are among my favorites; some were new to me. So, I am offering this list as a starting point in what I hope can be an ongoing list of books and an ongoing discussion on this blog. The author of the list says of the books: "These are the ones that know how to teach without preaching, that get to the heart of the problem in inspired, interesting, often quirky and unconventional ways."

So here goes! Most all of these books will be available at your public library. Certainly all will be available at the bookstore or Amazon. You can find the books listed in the FWU library in the Other Great Books section.

Henkes, Kevin. Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. Value of apologizing.

Shannon, David. No, David! Boundary testing. Children laugh out loud at this book.

Meddaugh, Susan. Martha Walks the Dog. Bullying.

Hills, Tad. How Rocket Learned to Read. Value of practice.

Kilodavis, Cheryl. My Princess Boy. Value of diversity.

Brown, Margaret Wise. Runaway Bunny. Worry and separation anxiety.

McKissack, Patricia. The All I'll Ever Want Christmas Doll. Value of sharing.

Hoff, Syd. Sammy the Seal. Fear of the unknown.

Viorst, Judith. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The title says it all. Every child relates. We could also include Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday as a companion book.

Falconer, Ian. Olivia Acts Out. Value of making the best of a bad situation. Olivia is the best.

Latimer, Alex. The Boy Who Cried Ninja. The dilemma of lying.

Raschka, Chris. A Ball for Daisy. Value of moving on when things break.

Marx, Patricia. Meet My Staff. Value of problem solving.

Rathmann, Peggy. Good Night Gorilla. Sleeping in own bed.

Huget, Jennifer. How to Clean Your Room in 10 Easy Steps. Value of doing chores.

Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg. Value of understanding adoption.

Thompson, Kay. Eloise. Lack of family structure. Besides that, the coolest heroine ever.

Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. Value of dealing with anger.

Moore, Julianne. Freckleface Strawberry. Dealing with differences.



Please join in the discussion. Which books do you and your children especially like that teach morals and values?





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