There is a reason that the technique of storytelling has been used in all cultures and civilizations throughout time to impart standards of conduct among their people. From Aesop to Jesus, stories are an easily relatable vehicle to teach ethics and impart moral truths.
I realized the value of narrative for developing character a few years ago when my daughter finished reading the sixth book in the Harry Potter series. She entered the kitchen where I was prepping dinner and complained about Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s decision to split up in their quest to defeat Voldemort. She was aghast that they chose to go it alone instead of using their united strength, “Mom, don’t they realize they are stronger together than apart?!”
Then I asked the questions that changed our family’s enjoyment of literature, “What do you think they should have done?” and “Why?”
Our kitchen discussion of Harry Potter led me to realize that asking my children about the decisions characters make in the books they read can yield deep philosophical, moral, and ethical discourse. This technique works with every genre of book and every reading level.
Just ask a question with should and then follow up with why.
“Should Sam keep trying to get him to eat green eggs and ham? Why?” could lead to a discussion about when is the time to respect the word no from someone else and trying new things.
“What should Edmund have done when he realized Lucy was telling the truth about the wardrobe? Why?” will help teach your children the importance of truthfulness and humility when you realize you are in the wrong.
“Should Anne have dyed her hair because she didn‘t like its red color?” Why?” might inspire a discussion about bullying and changing ourselves to fit others expectations or wishes.
“Should Elizabeth have accepted Mr. Darcy’s first marriage proposal for the betterment of her family even though she didn’t like him? Why?” makes a great opening to talk about self-sacrifice for the greater good versus personal wishes.
Two simple questions can lead to huge dividends in your family’s enjoyment and life application of books. Ask the questions after you finish reading aloud and see where the ensuing discussion leads. Use the questions as a simple form of literature narration for your older children. Teach character and morals to your younger children in a simple way.
Using books to nourish the heart of a child is one of the greatest benefits that reading can bring to your family. Try it out the next time you crack open a book together!
About the Author
Chelli has been homeschooling for seven years and married for thirteen. She has three children Grace (5th grade), Sophia (2nd grade), and Levi (5 years old). When she's not educating or blogging at The Planted Trees, you can generally find her with her nose in a book, cooking up something yummy in the kitchen, or if she's really lucky, you can't find her at all because she's traveling with friends and family.