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"Within the character of the citizen lies the welfare of the nation."

As stated by Cicero, character education has been valued throughout history, and its necessity to the survival of society is well regarded. The US Department of Education defines character education as follows:

“Character education teaches the habits of thought and deed that help people live and work together as families, friends, neighbors, communities and nations.”
       ~ Character Education…Our Shared Responsibility

It cites important values such as “respect, justice, civic virtue and citizenship, and responsibility for self and others” and that the formation of these values and attitudes are fundamental to the welfare of society. In its handbook Helping your child become a responsible citizen, included in these values is compassion, honesty and fairness, respect for self and others, courage, and patriotism. The US Government lists the use of literature as one of the key ways for parents and teachers to guide children in their character development. [Click to see their guide]

Building upon historical philosophers that date back to Aristotle and Plato, William Frankena provides this list of intrinsic goods:

“One of the most comprehensive lists of intrinsic goods that anyone has suggested is that given by William Frankena [1908-1994]. It is this: life, consciousness, and activity; health and strength; pleasures and satisfactions of all or certain kinds; happiness, beatitude, contentment, etc.; truth; knowledge and true opinions of various kinds, understanding, wisdom; beauty, harmony, proportion in objects contemplated; aesthetic experience; morally good dispositions or virtues; mutual affection, love, friendship, cooperation; just distribution of goods and evils; harmony and proportion in one's own life; power and experiences of achievement; self-expression; freedom; peace, security; adventure and novelty; and good reputation, honor, esteem, etc.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2007) retrieved from

President Obama’s initiative to improve education, Race for the Top, has created competition between states to develop strategies in four key areas with the first being that of adopting benchmarked best practices that prepare students for college and work, and the last that of turning around the poorest-performing schools. Certainly the integration of character-building literature into the home and classroom is important to student preparation for success in life. In fact, the finalists selected in this competition exhibited the same character traits as found in our criteria!

It is’s intention to provide a book review process that supports education of the whole child towards becoming a contributor to society, as well as reflects the nature of the content of children’s literature today.’s criteria to review children’s literature is a synthesis of the above and looks for the following behaviours of a story’s main characters or the premise of its storyline:

Respect for, and responsibility to, self and others: integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system) honesty, compassion, caring for others; not letting others denigrate you; use of self control and self-discipline; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken; peer-to-peer relationships.

Portrayal of authority figures: positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. ; actively-parenting mother and father figures;

Citizenship and patriotism: loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and the world; caring for and being considerate as a member of these groups.

Justice and balance: a just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; purposefully making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities;

Aesthetic aspects of the experience: the storyline’s portrayal of beauty, health, and love enhances virtuous behaviour of its characters. In contrast, stories incorporating hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence can (with repetition) desensitize readers to the beauty of the human existence. Also considered is the treatment of nature and the environment as being respected rather than exploited.

Other: aspects to consider in this book that may be of interest to readers, parents and teachers.

As such, will highlight only those books that it finds demonstrates some or many of these qualities, cutting through the thousands of titles available so you don’t have too; finding the gems that are worth reading!




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