Children’s Books that Build Character

GreenEggsHam1A column called A bicycle for a little girl had me thinking about its connections to children’s literature, reading and learning.

“Aren’t you the little girl who is always in here looking at bikes?” Emily nodded. “Is this going to be your bike?” Again she nodded. He smiled and turned to me, “You know, the shop ain’t that busy right now. You just pay for half of them, I’ll donate the other half, and I’ll fix it up for free.”
I nodded my agreement, and Emily ran to him and gave him a big hug. The old man smiled. “I’d say a hug is darned good pay.”
I paid my part, and a few days later we took Emily to the store to pick up her bike. Her happiness when she rode it was pay enough for all of us. As we left the store, Emily turned to me. “Is Mr. Johnson one of the angels you told me about that God has here that helps people?”
I nodded. “I’m sure he is, Emily. There are lots of them all around us.”
Emily rode her bike everywhere after that, and everyone loved her and watched out for her. One Saturday, as she ate dinner with us, she was unusually quiet. “What’s the matter, Emily?” I asked.
“You go to church every Sunday and learn about God, don’t you?” she asked. I nodded, so she continued. “Do you think God would let me come to church, too?”
“Of course He would,” I said. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I want to become an angel and help people, too,” she replied
“You don’t have to go to church to be an angel or to help people,” I said.

What kinds of children’s books with lessons are most enjoyable for young readers?

Here are three of my favorites:

Green Eggs & Ham by Dr. Seuss : This book is all about trying new things, when those new things seem strange or unappealing. This classic Dr. Seuss title rhythmic and lyrical and hilarious in a way that both children and adults can appreciate. Dr. Seuss argues his point by reducing the fear of trying new things to absurdity, showing what zany trials the creature in the hat will go through to avoid tasting the green eggs and ham. Ultimately, Seuss shows, in colorful terms, that there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Once we overcome our fears–of foods, people, activities–we open ourselves to new and enjoyable experiences which can bring a splash of zest to the monotony of daily life. I always enjoy getting to the very end when the main character tastes the eggs and ham.

The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room by Stan & Jan Berenstain : “The room shared by Brother and Sister is a mess because the cubs argue over who should neaten up instead of working together. Sure to make toddlers smile while they absorb an implied lesson,” according to Publishers Weekly.  The Berenstain Bears’ books offer many lessons. This book  starts with a problem (a messy room) and ends with a happy solution that the whole family works on together.

It’s Time to Start Using Your Words by Lawrence Shapiro : Young children accustomed to expressing themselves with tantrums, gestures, or simple silence need to learn that using their words is the best way to make their thoughts and feelings heard. This book helps kids learn to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and express themselves in productive ways. The book is written by child psychologist Lawrence Shapiro and includes language development information and advice for parents. Reading this book at storytime is a great way to encourage your child to communicate with words and leave crying and shyness behind. The book follows several children as they do normal daily activities and encourages them to use words to express their feelings or make requests, as opposed to just pointing or crying. For years, before reading this book, I found myself saying “Please use your words…” to my young children throughout the day. It’s nice to have found a book that reinforces that concept.


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