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"Growing" Readers & Suggestions for Choosing Virtuous Books

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

"The chief means of moral education is the telling of stories." ~ Alasdair MacIntyre

I grew up surrounded by books. My father began his career as a reading specialist and later worked for McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. I have many childhood memories of my father coming home with books for our family—fiction, non-fiction, artbooks, etc.—and he and my mother reading them to us. After I got married, my dad would show up wherever we were living (as a military family, we lived in a lot of places!) to build bookcases to “house” our growing library.

So, I come by my love of books honestly; my parents instilled that love in me. And this passion has been carried down through the family’s children and grandchildren.

As the creator of the PACE curriculum, I have been reading, reviewing, and

compiling booklists for parents and children for over 30 years. My

recommendations focus on stories of virtuous behavior. I believe that the best way

to teach children to be virtuous is to set good examples for them – by our own

actions and by what they read. Classic stories and books with moral themes teach

children long-lasting lessons. And it’s much more fun to learn these lessons

through stories instead of from dry lectures or the imparting of rules. This is why

it’s so important to choose their reading material wisely.

I wanted to help you make good choices, so I've put together some "tips."

Tips for choosing books for (and with) your children

  • Think back to your own childhood. What books did you read and re-read? These books are probably good choices for your kids as well!

  • Read reliable reviews of books (or read the books yourself) before the kids read them.

  • Steer clear of books that are disrespectful of authority.

  • For young readers, stick to books that have obvious "good" and "bad" characters. This age group needs to see a clear difference between good and evil. When they're a bit older, they can read books that aren't as straightforward, but you should discuss the themes and characters with them.

  • Don’t assume that every book written by a favorite author will be consistent in terms of moral themes.

  • Pay particular attention to history books. Many are filled with “woke” themes & lies.

  • Don’t automatically trust what other parents recommend for your children to read. Many recommendations include trendy book series that promote the opposite of virtue. Again, you should vet books before handing them to your children.

  • In the same vein, “Whatever gets them to read!” is not the best mantra when choosing books. This only assigns value to the act of reading itself as an “end,” but not to the books they’re actually reading. Many of the books published today contain morally dubious material. (It's like saying, "Whatever gets them to eat!" and letting them eat junk food. Not all food is healthy - and neither are all children's books!)

  • Read books and stories aloud to your children as often as possible.

  • Keep your house stocked with classic books & stories and make them easily accessible to your children.

  • The PACE curriculum offers Recommended Booklists as well as stories from the The Book of Virtues and the The Moral Compass. There is no reason to offer inferior books to our children when there is a treasury of literature at our disposal!

Some suggestions for "growing readers"

  1. Keep screen-watching to a minimum. Time spent in front of a screen is time away from reading good literature, as well as learning proper grammar and syntax. Remember: Good readers also become good writers!

  2. Go to the library weekly (if possible) and help children choose good books. If your local library stocks inappropriate books/display cases, take the kids to another library, local bookstore, or used bookstore instead.

  3. Ask children which books they liked/didn’t like, and why.

  4. Take the time to TALK to your children about what they’re currently reading. Discussions help kids to formalize their ideas and also gives parents insight into what they’re thinking. (Some statistics show that the average amount of time U.S. parents and children converse in the course of a day is 3-6 minutes. Yet some children spend up to 6-10 hours a day on the Internet/social media – and that’s where they’re getting their “values.” This has to change if we want to raise virtuous children and change the culture of our country.)

You can find an extensive list (per grade level) of classic books in the PACE (Program for Achieving Character Education) manual at

Let’s grow readers in our families/homes!

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