Baumgart, Klaus. (1997). Laura’s Star. Waukesha, WI: Little Tiger’s Press.
Recommended Reading: ages 4-10.
Laura’s Star is a touching story of a young girl who displays compassion, caring and nurturing as she helps an injured falling star. She finds that she can share all of her thoughts and secrets with her new “special friend.”
As a character education connection that is science based, children create a “magic wishing dust” potion to make their own special wish for “peace.” Here is the recipe for the potion: In a large mixing bowl, blend 2 cups white sugar and one fourth cup of colored glitter. One teaspoon of the wishing dust potion may be placed in an empty 35mm film container. Children pour their magic wishing dust into their hand(s) and whisper their wish for “peace” into the potion. Outdoors with adult supervision, children throw their potion.
Shannon, David. (2002). David Gets in Trouble. NY: Scholastic.
Recommended Reading: ages 3-7.
Patterned after author David Shannon’s early childhood, this picture storybook looks at both parents and teachers and the ways of saying “no” to a child. Parents are sent a clear message: we love our children even though we do not always “love the things they do.”
The character David has many responses to things that get him into trouble. When he breaks a window hitting the baseball, his response is, “It was an accident.” When he walks to school carrying his lunch box and wearing no pants, his response is, “I forgot!” And, when he is caught eating the doggy treats, his response is, “I was hungry!” At the end of the story, David finally says, “yes, it was me” and apologies for the behavior.
Bell, Sharon. (1975). The Hundred Penny Box. NY: Penguin Books.
Recommended Reading: ages 8-12.
Michael and his Great-Great Aunt Dew share an old box filled with one hundred pennies; one for each of Aunt Dew’s birthdays. Michael enjoys counting the pennies and listening as Aunt Dew tells the story behind each one. The hundred penny box collection is one of the few possessions Aunt Dew has left and to keep it safe she keeps it hidden under her bed.
The characters in this generational literature selection demonstrate a strong bond between the past and the present. Readers are encouraged to ask questions of the adults in their lives. It is also a perfect time for the young reader to write a letter to a grandparent or an aunt and uncle keeping the lines of communication open.
A follow-up activity for both parents and children is making a “collection” together. This may be a collection of leaves, buttons, small toys, dolls--anything of interest! Parents are encouraged to help their child to search, sort, classify, define, label, count, record, and make conclusions about the specimens they find interesting. Just like Michael and Aunt Dew’s story, collections may be shared with relatives and/or friends.
The positive character traits and values found in this literature selection include those of respect, honor, empathy, and expressiveness.
The message we are sent is that establishing positive relationships is valuable for our own personal growth and nurturing. No matter what age, gender, ethnicity, social-economic status, academic achievement obtained---we all can learn to appreciate others for who they are and what they have to offer. We build these positive relationships to last a life-time. A children’s rhyme says it best: “Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other’s gold.”
O’Neill, Alexis. (2002). The Recess Queen. NY: Scholastic.
Recommended Reading: ages 5-8
“Mean Jean the Recess Queen” always gets her way at school. She bullies everyone to get what she wants. She pushes and shoves; hollers and screams; and hits and slams. No one dared to ask Mean Jean to play. One day, a new student named Katie Sue arrives at school. Katie Sue goes about her business playing on the school ground paying no attention to “Mean Jean the Recess Queen.” How did Mean Jean get to be so bossy? Katie Sue pulls out a new jump rope from her backpack and sings, ”hey Jeanie Beanie--Let’s try this jump rope out!” Katie Sue hopped and jumped and skipped around the playground singing, “I like ice cream, I like tea, I want Jean to jump with me!” Jean was too frightened to move at all. Katie Sue was asking her to play! Classmates urged Jean on and she jumped and bounced and hopped and skipped and laughed with her new friend Katie Sue!
Positive character traits and values found in this children’s story include cooperation, sharing, and friendship.
The message we are sent as parents is that negative name calling often causes children to portray those behaviors. “Mean Jean” acted her role as she bossed and bullied all the children around her. When Katie Sue called her “Jeanie Beanie” ( a nice new name), Jean showed a different side of herself. She was actually invited by a new friend to jump rope! The message to parents is to remember that names stay with a child for a lifetime----be positive, encouraging, and complimentary in choosing your words. Saying words like, “you are so good at ______________”; or “I like how you _____________”; and “applause to you for_______________________” go a long way in the development and nurturing of a child.
Lobel, Arnold. (1970). Frog and Toad Are Friends. NY: Harper & Row.
Recommended Reading: ages 5-11.
Lobel’s Frog and Toad Are Friends, is a collection of short favorite stories for young to adult readers. The characters portray humanistic qualities as they demonstrate true loyalty and friendship in each story. Each chapter in the book portrays the positive character traits of loyalty, friendship and belonging, being liked, and acceptance. Frog and Toad truly have a friendship that all of us would like to have with a friend!
DeRolf, Shane. (1977). The Crayon Box that Talked. Chicago: Harcourt.
Recommended Reading: ages 4-10.
This short story demonstrates a valuable lesson about community and cooperation. When all the crayons in the crayon box began to argue and complain, something had to be done. A little girl helps the talking box of crayons see that we have uniqueness in ourselves; but, together as a team, we can accomplish great things. When all of the crayons work together, they create a beautiful picture representative of themselves.
In practicing community and cooperation, you and your child are encouraged to work together to create a picture of art / beauty. Here are a few guidelines:
- You and your child must work together to create one piece of artwork
- All the colors of the crayon box must be used in the artwork
- Both of you sign your name to the artwork
Parton, Dolly. (1994). Coat of Many Colors. NY: HarperCollins.
Recommended Reading: ages 8-12.
Dolly Parton’s song, “Coat of Many Colors,” is illustrated in a picture-book story format. The book is based on Dolly Parton’s life growing up in the hills of Tennessee. She tells the musical story of a little girl growing up who had no winter coat. So, the mother sews a special coat for her little girl out of rags. She tells the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors to her child. Proudly, the little girl wears her coat of many colors to school. The children at school make fun of the little girl and her coat; but, the little girl tries to tell her classmates that “one is only poor if they choose to be.” The famous words from the song say: “And though we had no money—I was rich as I could be, in my coat of many colors that Mama made for me.”
“Coat of Many Colors” is an exceptional piece to use when examining the character trait of empathy. To help children understand what it means to portray empathy, parents are encouraged to involve their child in a service learning project. The project should be neighborhood / community oriented and one that can be completed within a stated time frame. Service learning projects actively involve children in helping to solve a problem while performing a service to others.
Some generic service learning projects focusing on “empathy” include the following:
- Collecting, packing, and distributing food / staples / dry goods for a local food pantry
- Singing, dancing, reciting, and performing at a nursing home / group home for residents
- Corresponding through writing cards and letters and drawing pictures to a resident at a nursing home facility
- Participating in outside yard clean up or planting bulbs / flowers at homes where physically challenged people reside
- Making board games / card games for a local hospital to give to children and their families who are facing health crisis’