Why a story-based approach to character education?
All children aspire to greatness. Some want to be the fastest runners or most skilled athletes; others, the finest ballerinas. Still others long to be the best students, or most skillful painters, musicians, or poets. Boys and girls do not aspire to Olympian athletic prowess because their parents have drilled into them the health benefits of exercise. Nor do they seek to become fabulous dancers because they have studied the importance of rhythm and agility.
A child’s dreams of greatness spring from the epic dramas playing out in the theaters of their imaginations. Stories inspire them. Grand narratives draw them forward, encouraging them to fall in love with either good or evil. William Kilpatrick has pointed out that a child facing cancer or illness or any great test of self may find inspiration and strength for the journey reading and re-reading the Twelve Labors of Hercules. In like manner, one who thrills to Horatio at the Gate orThe Story of Ruby Bridges is quicker to model civic courage and in the latter case, forgiveness as well. Our job as parents and educators is to ensure that the dramas in our children’s imaginations are quality scripts, stories that inspire them to fall in love with virtue, with moral excellence.
The Core Virtues program, with its strong story base, showcases quality children’s literature to nurture a robust and healthy moral imagination. The Core Virtues book contains an overview essay on the relationship of literature and character. (The best book length explanation is in William Kilpatrick’s classic volume, Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong, Chapters 7 and 11.)