One of the many problems with today’s society is that children do not have adequate heroes and role models. When little girls want to grow up and be Britney Spears and boys want to be Eminem, there is a real problem. And, part of the reason the kids look to those people is because they are who they see all the time in the media. So, one way to combat this is by introducing positive role models to them. And it should be done early, while they are still impressionable and learning about the world.
When I was a kid in the 1970’s, the media’s influences were slightly more controlled because there was no internet, no cable, to texting, heck, no computers. A friend of my mom’s gave my brother and me a book called The Value of Patience, the Story of The Wright Brothers. The story was full of facts about these 2 brothers who invented the first working aircraft, and the pictures were bright and colorful and the writing engaging. We loved that book.
Soon, we started to collect the Value Tales, by Spencer and Ann Donegan Johnson. The Wright Brothers’ biography was soon followed by The Value of Determination, The Story of Helen Keller and then it was Beethoven, Jackie Robinson, Columbus, Will Rogers, Johnny Appleseed, the list goes on and on. By the time I was in high school, I had learned about all sorts of historical figures that never seem to make their way into the history books anymore. Significant people who have made incredible contributions to the world…Ralph Bunche, Nelly Bly, Elizabeth Fry, Cochise, the Mayo Brothers…how many kids today have heard of these people? Probably very few. But all of them have books devoted to them in the Value Tales series. And they are interesting, fun, colorful and educational. After all, isn’t the best kind of learning when you don’t even realize it?
When I became a teacher, the Value Tales worked their way into my classroom. My students loved them. It didn’t matter that each book is about 60 pages. I had 2nd graders that would sit through an entire volume, hanging on every word, and part of the reason is because the writing by the Johnsons humanizes the subjects. We learn where they came from, their families, and their struggles and perseverance to obtain success. And to make things extra fun, a lot of the subjects have little imaginary friends that pop out somewhere in the beginning and become their inner voice.
There are many biographical series available, but you would be hard-pressed to find one that is better than the Value Tales series. There are around 40 books. (I have 29.) They are not in print anymore but you can easily find them on Amazon or other used books sites. Some are very valuable, like the Lucille Ball Value Tale…probably the most in-demand of the series (I still don’t have that one,) which can run $100 just for 1 volume, but most are much, much less. If you can find a set for sale somewhere that has 10-15 books for around $100, it is a good buy and well worth the investment for your children.
Isn’t it time you gave your kids some good role models? You’ll find them in The Value Tales. My childhood set is in my bookcase about 3 feet from me right now. *wink*