Using Stories to Develop Character

At the end of a long, exhausting day full of real-life troubles, bedtime rituals can offer comfort. Especially story time.

A good story with strong characters and high morals can inspire both children and parents alike. Even the classics are beneficial, where lazy pigs get eaten, boys who cry “wolf!” are ignored and a foolish gingerbread man meets his doom.

Such stories help children understand the importance of hard work, honesty and discernment; in short, the reality of consequences. Through books, children can learn what’s possible and hopefully some important lessons.

Recently our son Harrison started being less than forthright about things. I reached for The Boy Who Cried Wolf to illustrate the importance of telling the truth.

Yes, it was challenging to explain to a 4-year-old what happened to the little boy when the wolf really showed up and no one came to his rescue. But if Harrison can learn honesty by reading a story, even one that involves the demise of a naughty trickster, how much better than having to experience that pain firsthand.

Some might argue that life’s scary enough without reading fanciful tales of woe. I understand their concerns. I certainly don’t want to introduce nightmares, filling my kids’ heads with endless warnings of what bad things might happen.

But I do want them to understand human nature and develop wisdom. And there are lots of books well suited to the task. Experts agree: Reading is one of the best things you can do for your children. And what you read matters.