How to Talk to Kids About Morals, Values, and What Matters Most
26 Read Aloud Stories
By Ian James Corlett
A Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Librarians
About the Book
How do children learn moral values? Using the chapters in this book as a tool, children can learn, with their parents, grandparents, teachers, or librarians as guides, to better understand the values and ethics presented. It is easy to assume that children know about morality, but these are learned behaviors, not inherent ones. Without guidance, study, and training in the understanding and use of these values, children will be left with no formal understanding. In this book each of the twenty-six chapters includes a simple story illustrating a particular value. There is also an interactive opportunity for each reader to determine the right action in that situation. There are additional questions with each value, encouraging further thinking and discernment by the reader. There are also quotes with each chapter, highlighting the value discussed.
The unique feature of this book is that it tackles many of the common values that have been part of our cultural morality. In the past these values were everywhere in a child’s life: They were reinforced through family, school, church, social groups, neighbors, and friends. Life today is not as homogenous in our society nor is expectation of behavior as clear for children. More formal education in ethics has been left mainly in the hands of the family, and many families are not equipped with the tools to teach them.
In this book you will find ideas on how to further apply and understand these values and ethics. There are activities to identify, to understand, and to practice these ethics at home, at school, and in the community.
Each of these chapters can be a stand-alone experience. While many are related and can work together, for these activities try to focus on the individual value you are highlighting. In framing the understanding of these ethical values, it is important for the student to identify, understand/practice, and finally to master the concept. In using the following activities, you will be given specific ways to help the child learn and incorporate the ethic into his or her daily life.
Identify the values:
1. Write a definition for each moral or value. The link to Merriam-Webster’s Student Dictionary is: Http://www.wordcentral.com
2. Along with finding the definition of the value, the child can find the opposite of the value, as well as what words are related to this value, and using the Thesaurus, what are similar words.
3. Have an assigned “Value of the Week.” Teachers can write it on the board, and students can write it in their values notebooks. Children can keep a diary, writing down examples of situations that exhibit those values. For example, seeing someone exhibit good citizenship, or kindness, should be written down. This can then be used in later discussions of these values.
4. Find news or magazine articles that exemplify these values. Collect articles for further use as discussion material.
5. Identify books that have characters that exhibit these values and summarize what they did. This could include historical figures.
6. Identify values in popular TV shows and movies. Write these down in your values notebook, for further discussion.
7. Identify someone in your life who has exhibited one of the values and tell about them.
Understand the Values:
1. Understanding the value can be accomplished by working with the definitions. Using the situations in this book, as well as the situations collected by the students, have an in-depth discussion.
2. Parents can give their own examples of times they experienced these values in their lives. They can share how they would have liked to act, or what they think should have been done. This type of sharing opens discussion. Writing down the outcome of the discussion and how we would hope to see this value expressed is also important.
3. What is the opposite of this value? Sometimes understanding the opposite situation will help solidify the understanding of the potential desired effect of the value.
4. Organize small group discussions where students work on rephrasing situations in the book. Have them explain the situation presented and the value as displayed in their own words.
Practice the Values:
There are many opportunities to display these ethical values: Volunteering to help pick up trash, collecting food for the local food bank, raking leaves or shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor, volunteering at local events, helping out after school, helping someone in need, telling the truth, etc.
1. There are twenty-six ethical values in the book. Try to practice one each week. There will be many opportunities during any day to experience the value being highlighted. Record the experience.
2. Set a goal to practice kindness or responsibility or any of the ethical values. The situations can be recorded in value notebooks as they are experienced. Review them in weekly discussions.
3. Set specific goals, and then record them in some way. Children can write goals in their value notebooks and record their examples of ethical behavior.
4. Display mastery of the value by teaching someone else the value. By doing this the child displays his or her understanding. Once the students have learned more about each value, and had the opportunity to collect situations and discuss them, then let students use a chapter of the book to share their thoughts and understanding with others.
5. Prepare a chart where children can list the values and keep track of examples of the use of that value.
In an ideal situation all members of the community would participate in this teaching of ethical morality. It is important to our society that we all work in unison to help teach ethical values. If you are lucky enough to work with your school and community, the following suggestions can also be tried.
· Help find news or magazine articles that discuss these ethical values.
· Find books that have characters that represent these themes, and share them with students.
· Help students find dictionary definitions using online or print resources.
· Writing assignments: Write a daily diary entry about behaviors that show a particular ethical value.
· Social Studies: Give students the opportunity to look at historic figures who display any of the specific ethical values (such as George Washington and the Cherry Tree).
· Value for the week: Put it up on the board and list the ways it’s displayed during the week.
· Oral communication skills: Have small discussion groups about ways to practice these values.
· Write a morality play: Let students be creative and use as many of the ethical values from the book as they can and write their own morality play. Present the play, and discuss.
· Working with your child on your own, have weekly talks about the values, one at a time.
· Review the questions in the book, and talk about the solutions. Include examples from your life and share your experience with your children.
· Go over the child’s daily values diary entries, and talk about his or her questions. Stress the importance of these values and ethical behavior in general.
This reading guide was prepared by JoAnn Jonas, MLS. She is a Youth Services librarian, reviewer, and Children’s and Teen Library Services consultant.