Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Review: First Virtues

First Virtues for Toddlers. Mary Manz Simon. 2016. B&H. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From Letter to Parents: In the middle of their busy days, parents might find themselves asking a lot of questions. How can I teach my toddler to share? How can I help my two year old learn to forgive? These questions aren't surprising. Research shows that parents care deeply about building character in their children. In today's world, outside influences can impact even a young child. As a result, parents must be intentional about teaching  core beliefs.

Premise/plot: First Virtues is a storybook collection with twelve virtue-teaching stories for toddlers and preschoolers. The twelve stories are: "Kitty Shows Kindness," "Piglet Tells The Truth," "Bunny Loves Others," "Duckling is Patient," "Tiger Forgives," "Puppy Makes Friends," "Squirrel Says Thank You," "Bear Obeys," "Lamb is Joyful," "Lion Can Share," "Panda is Polite," and "Koala Does His Best."

Each of the twelve stories, as I'm sure you've noticed, stars an animal. Each of the twelve stories begins with a similar refrain along the lines of "Kitty, Kitty, share today what the Bible has to say." Each of the stories defines and illustrates the chosen virtue in a simple, straightforward way. Each story is written in rhyme. Each of the stories concludes with a bible verse and a note to parents on how to further help teach or instruct their child.

Kindness means I am aware when someone needs help and care. (14)
Patience means that I am fine standing in a long, long line. (74)
To forgive means move on past. Don't let angry feelings last. (94)
My thoughts: My favorite of the twelve is probably Tiger Forgives. "If I friend does not play fair, I forgive to show I care. God forgives, so I can too. That is what I try to do. "I forgive," God says to you. Are those words that you say too?" (104-8).

My least favorite of the twelve is probably Lamb is Joyful. This concept be the most difficult to describe--not just for children but for adults as well. Is joy distinct from happiness? Is there a difference between the "joy" that comes from singing a praise song and eating a piece of candy? How does joy relate to one's circumstances? How closely connected is joy with thankfulness and contentment? I see a difference between joy and happiness. (Not all Christians do.) And to compare genuine joy in the Lord with "the joy" you get from blowing bubbles doesn't really do anyone any favors.

I can see some definite strengths. The author definitely connects each story to a particular bible verse. And many virtues are clearly taught in both Old and New Testaments. The focus of this book is on virtues and morals. On plainly teaching and instructing a set of virtues to young children. The book is not focused on the gospel, on teaching and instructing who Christ is and what Christ has done for us.

While this book clearly presents the Christian aspect of these virtues, there is nothing exclusively Christian about these virtues in general. These are twelve universal virtues that are routinely seen as being good for children to acquire. These type of lessons could just as easily be taught on shows like Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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