The Character Connection
State-of-the-Art Technology! Beautiful buildings! Innovative strategies! Well-equipped libraries! Spectacular sports complexes! Improved cafeteria food! Air conditioned buses! Gifted and Talented programs! Multiple Intelligences! Intelligent leaders!
All useless. All pointless. All doomed to crumble without one pivotal point:
Psychologists say that compassion or empathy is the first character trait, the doorway to all other character traits. Without it, children are hard pressed to understand and develop integrity and loyalty. They tell us that it is formed as we sit on our parents' knees and feel their warmth, security, and love, as we see the tears when we are sick, the laughter when we are happy.
But what about our children who come to school, apparently without character? Will they be able to learn compassion? How will they become loyal citizens? How will they develop integrity?
"One evil mind can nullify the work of millions of gifted individuals doing constructive work." (Tannebaum)
How can students learn about the destructiveness of hate and evil without having experienced it themselves?
Literature allows us to transport children to other places, other times, to see through the eyes of those who have experienced problems and have risen above them.
Compassion is born as students walk with others through hard times. Through the faltering steps and unyeilding perseverence of Norm in One-Handed Catch by Mary Jane Auch, Georgie in The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff , and Jessica in Firegirl by Tony Abbott, students can feel the pain of burns and isolation as the characters pull them into their stories and touch their lives. Through the lives of these who have persevered pain and differences and emerged victorious, they learn compassion.
The lessons of history come to life in literature. Students experience courage, loyalty, and responsibility as they read fiction like Gabriel's Horses by Alison Hart, Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis, and The Earth Dragon Awakes by Laurence Yep and nonfiction like Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh, and George Crum and the Saratoga Chip by Gaylia Taylor. To understand prejudice, one must feel for the ones being affected by it. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom and Elijah of Buxton introduce children to the pain of slavery in the 1800s. Surviving Antarctica and Double Identity suggest problems we will face in the future if we don't handle the present with compassion and wisdom. Literature can remind us of the mistakes we have made so they will not be repeated in the classroom nor in the future!
Literature is an invaluable time machine, a magic carpet that can take children into the lives of others, can reveal to them the joys of conquering adversity and the satisfaction of being able to help others. The Hero of Bremen by Margaret Hodges, though a picture book, is a powerful story about a hero in folklore who gave his all for others. The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park and Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan will soften the hearts of even the most difficult children.
At a time when God is under attack by a few in our country who would change our national motto, literature still tells the true story of those whose success came through their faith. The Riches of Osceola McCarty by Evelyn Coleman, Wingwalker by Rosemary Wells, and Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges do not edit out the spiritual strength real people draw from God in times of trouble.
Guiding children through literature that contains good, moral characters who represent strong values, who overcome adversity, who make us laugh and make us cry is essential in character building. But, then, it is still essential that the tour guide (YOU) be there to to shine a light on the character traits and to open young eyes who might otherwise blink and miss a character building opportunity.
Wings highlights character, moral values, and decision making skills
in every novel unit. Through our novel units, your children will
be immersed in character!
Disclaimer: Texas Bluebonnet AwardSM is a service mark of the Texas Library Association, which is in no way affiliated with Kids' Wings or Suzy Red. Use of the Texas Bluebonnet Award mark in these materials does not imply any endorsement of any kind on behalf of the Texas Library Association. The Texas Bluebonnet Book Master ListSM was selected by the Texas Bluebonnet Award Committee of the Texas Library Association.
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