On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from February 2009.
I bought The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories years ago, back when I was a grad student and children were just a faint idea in a distant future. I loved this collection of classic stories, and recently as I was going through my books, I rediscovered it and thought it would be great to introduce it to my kids. We have started reading portions of it to the kids at night, and at mealtimes. I could go on and on about this book, and a part of me is tempted to just stop writing altogether, and just post one of the selections here every day. It’s that good. Read excerpts here.
What I love about it:
1) it introduces kids to some of the great authors, philosophers, and poets of past and present
2) the stories are all very brief, in kid-sized nuggets
3) the language is difficult, but this kind of reading is so beneficial to developing a child’s vocabulary (and one of the reasons Jafta now uses words and phrases like, “perhaps”, “therefore”, “this is wondrous”, and “I’ve soiled my hands”.
4) the chapters are organized by different virtues, so if there is a particular character issue that needs a little tweaking in your home, it’s easy to find a story that fits, fromself-discipline, and compassion to friendship and honesty
5) this book is a literature geek’s goldmine
6) even pirates extoll the virtues of poetry reading:
This past month, we’ve started reading the following poem before every meal. Now, at first glance, I admit this poem seems a bit, how shall we say . . . stodgy and strict. (Yes, that age-old goodie “children should be seen and heard” is from this very poem). But I like the values that it teaches about how kids should compose themselves at meals. Now – since reading this, do my meals look like the one described here? Mwaahahahahahahah. No. But we are moving in the right direction, and the kids can now recite most of the poem, explain what it means, and THE BEST PART: catch themselves (or more likely, each other) when they are not being appropriate.
Table Rules for Little Folks
In which we learn how to take our daily bread.
In silence I must take my seat,
And give God thanks before I eat;
Must for my food in patience wait,
Till I am asked to hand my plate;
I must not scold, nor whine, nor pout,
Nor move my chair nor plate about;
With knife, or fork, or napkin ring,
I must not play, nor must I sing.
I must not speak a useless word,
For children should be seen, not heard;
I must not talk about my food,
Nor fret if I don’t think it good;
I must not say, “The bread is old,”
“The tea is hot,” “The coffee’s cold”;
My mouth with food I must not crowd,
Nor while I’m eating speak aloud;
Must turn my head to cough or sneeze,
And when I ask, say “If you please”;
The tablecloth I must not spoil,
Nor with my food my fingers soil;
Must keep my seat when I have done,
Nor round the table sport or run;
When told to rise, then I must put
My chair away with noiseless foot;
And lift my heart to God above,
In praise for all his wondrous love.