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“Tell Me A Story…”

The Core Virtues program employs quality children’s literature to help children fall in love with the good.

At a time when our public discourse all too frequently descends to diatribe, the Core Virtues approach speaks to “the better angels of our nature.” We’re employing quality children’s literature to promote civility, respect for the human person, and stretching for human excellence in every way. In fact, the word virtue means excellence. The Core Virtues program, with its daily morning gathering, inspires children to want to do their best and be their best. It is a springboard to a brighter future.

What is the Core Virtues Program?

Core Virtues is a practical, non-sectarian approach to character education on the kindergarten to sixth grade level. Each month teachers highlight a key intellectual, moral, or civic virtue – virtues such as respect, responsibility, diligence, honesty, generosity, or perseverance. They read quality children’s literature at a “Morning Gathering” to provide inspirational or insightful examples of virtue in action. The reading of these well written and often beautifully illustrated stories helps children fall in love with the good, and cultivate a vocabulary of virtue.

Virtues highlighted each month in the Core Virtues program are common ground, consensus virtues – not controversial social or political agendas. A partial list includes: respect, responsibility, diligence, gratitude, honesty, generosity, perseverance, courage, faithfulness, compassion, openness to inquiry, and humility in the face of facts.

The program objective is to ignite the imagination of the young, inspiring them to do and be their best. The program is a catalyst for academic success because it encourages the habits of the heart and mind that are necessary for quality scholarship.

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 or The 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.) reading to children

How do you implement Core Virtues?

Core Virtues is surprisingly easy for schools, teachers, and parents to implement. It does not require elaborate teacher training or contrived pedagogical techniques. It requires instead the introduction of an age-appropriate definition for each virtue and the reading of quality children’s literature at a “Morning Gathering” for approximately 15 minutes per day three times a week.

Our bulleted overview will provide you with the tools to get started.

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