Teaching Character Through Literature

No one is ever too young or ever too old to learn lessons in character. The youngest of children learn lessons in self-control, patience, and respect for others. At every age, we, hopefully, continue to improve on our character and gain in trust, honesty, integrity, and other good character traits. If you homeschool, concern about your child/children’s character may have been one of the reasons you chose to teach at home.

How can we teach kids good character? The number one way is through modeling good behavior. “Do what I say, not what I do” just doesn’t cut it. If you say honesty is important but then are seen telling “white lies” or skirting the truth, children will learn that there are exceptions to being honest. Now, I’m not suggesting that you teach them to be completely honest when they don’t like how someone looks or what someone does, but we do need to be careful that we are setting a good example. They see much more than we think they do.

Emily_Fountain Reading (9)

It is also important to talk about character. Talk about why good character is important. What are good character traits? Talk about situations where character issues have come up or may come up. 

You can also use literature to start discussions. Literature allows children to see character in action. Finding books that cover the character trait you want to address is as easy as Google. Type the words “literature” “children” “list” and add the character trait you want to, such as “respect.” You will find several websites with suggested books.

Here are a few great websites to get you started:
Character Counts: Children’s Books that Build Character
Championing Character Through Children’s Literature List
Children’s Booklists (Several topics available on the right)
Movies are also a great way to start discussions.
Teach with Movies

For younger children, you may choose several picture books. Discussions for older children may center around one book or movie. Along with the books and discussion, you may want to choose some activities to enhance children’s learning. Role-playing situations where children would use a trait, such as honesty or responsibility, is a great way to teach character.

When you use literature to teach character, you’re not only teaching a lesson on character, but you’re also squeezing in a lesson in reading and literature. Double bonus! And, if it’s history-related, you can add that in, too! Triple bonus!

I have added a unit on sharing that I recently wrote for preschoolers. You can access it at the Preschool Nook tab or use this link: Preschool Theme: Sharing. Even if you don’t have preschoolers, you may find some of the activity ideas will help you generate ideas for older children.

I have several questions for today. What character traits do you find yourself addressing with your children/students? How do you teach character? Do you have any books or movies that you use to teach character? (Please include the character traits they teach and the age group for which they are appropriate.)

Want to read more about raising children with great values? Check out Raise a Child with Great Values. I thought this was a great article with some great suggestions for family discussion.

Happy Character Building!!


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