JULY 8, 2020

Books That Teach Character


Good character can seem like an ambiguous goal at times. Character training is a difficult concept to define and is consequently complex to plan into your homeschooling studies. As a parent, you know it’s important to teach your children about respect, right and wrong, manners, courtesies, gratitude, and so on. We know these traits are important as adults, and they have a weighty impact in our daily life and social relationships. 

However, teaching good character is hard to pin down. It can seem just out of reach because these are abstract ideals, not concrete facts like math or grammar. Still, teaching your child integrity, discretion and compassion is important. In the end, good character counts. We could write a list of character traits for you to work through with your kids one by one, but teaching character goes deeper than that. It’s a matter of the heart. Frankly, how can you help your child to be a good person and have a kind heart?

Which concepts would be on a list of character traits? Here are a few to consider, though please note that while there are plenty more unlisted traits, many of these influence each other cyclically.

  • Honesty
  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Wisdom
  • Contentment
  • Humility
  • Integrity
  • Selflessness
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Respect

Why Character Train?

Over time, homeschooling parents have created various curricula for teaching character and have vetted homeschool programs with lesson plans on character traits for their fellow homeschoolers. However, teaching character is a sensitive subject, like a blossoming flower. And sometimes, directly teaching something so sensitive with lesson plans and quizzes, can make it more into an obligatory, fear-based study. Consider it similar to handling a delicate flower too roughly, and as a result, tearing the petals. Why would it be fear-based? Well, if your kids can possibly fail a course about character, in their minds what would that say about their own character? Additionally, human nature automatically regards obligations as disagreeable and negative.

Instead, teaching character by gently instilling it into your children’s lives through examples, stories, and actions, you will demonstrate the importance of this list of character traits as well as the impact they have on others. Character counts — and the parent is the primary role model. Your children will demonstrate what they’ve seen. As they say, “more is caught than taught,” which means our children are learning from us, usually before we realize it! For parents, it’s a priority to demonstrate what are character traits, but oftentimes, character training with worksheets on concepts like honesty, integrity, and compassion can seem like a slow climb.

However, even though character training is a tricky subject, it isn’t any less important. Children’s books can be great resources for lesson plans on character traits, demonstrating what are character traits, and why character matters. These books, combined with your real-life situations and character traits worksheets, can make a tremendous difference over time. It takes patience. Try to keep in mind that character training is a marathon, not a sprint.

Why does character count? Good character affects:

  • Our reputation
  • Our family relationships
  • Our career options
  • Our income reliability
  • Our friends
  • Our responsibilities
  • Our safety
  • Our joy in life
  • Our savings
  • …and more!

How to Character Train

We’ve established that good character counts, but we still have to pin down how to character train. Using books that teach character traits along with lesson plans on character traits are great places to start. While at first, it may seem difficult to add character development to your homeschool schedule, character training actually fits perfectly with the homeschool lifestyle. Homeschooling offers plenty of opportunities for real-life applications, flexibility, and innumerable books. Whether you start with a list of character traits and choose one to slowly work on or you start with lesson plans on character traits, books that teach character traits can add depth to your homeschool study.

The journey will likely be challenging, but the positive moments will steal your breath away as your child learns. Character training means giving your children the chance to demonstrate what they’ve been taught, knowing they could also make the wrong decision. As with all areas of homeschooling, practice, application, and positive reinforcement are vital for success.

Everyone will work on character development in their own way as they find a pace and style that suits their family. However, to get started, here is our recommendation:

  • Teach the lesson
  • Use Scripture as your standard (for religious families)
  • Reinforce concepts with worksheets
  • Practically apply character traits with real-life situations
  • Read fun books that support character training
  • Finally, but most importantly, model good character. We all make mistakes, but how we react is what makes the difference!

Books For Teaching Character

These days, new homeschool parents have an incredible selection of resources to help them find the right teaching tools. Over the years, both Christian and secular homeschool parents have filled the need for books on morals or good character by either writing their own or researching and compiling lists of great options! It’s helpful to note that most books teach a targeted moral rather than a series of character traits. However, with an arsenal of titles and your own good example, your children will have a thoroughly solid foundation.

To help parents, we have a new monthly series of character training printables. These are free and ready to go, but please note they are also Christian. Though secular parents are absolutely welcome to utilize these printables, the standard for teaching with these character traits worksheets is rooted in Scripture. This list of books for teaching good character is designed to go along with our monthly printables. When you combine hands-on opportunities, fun stories, and printables, your students will be immersed in the concepts of character training. These books show why character counts and will help your homeschoolers learn how to make strong, responsible decisions. 

We have enjoyed these books as a family and we hope you do as well! (Links below will take you away from Homeschool.com)

  • The Miller Family Series by Mildred A. Martin — Through basic and practical lessons, the Millers grow and learn together as a family. In this series, the parents teach their children about good character with everyday opportunities.
  • Patricia St. John Series — The six books in this series are: “Star of Light,” “The Tanglewoods’ Secret,” “The Secret at Pheasant Cottage,” “Rainbow Garden,” “Treasures of the Snow,” and “Where the River Begins.”
  • The Trailblazer Series by Dave Jackson — The Trailblazer Books are an especially captivating series for children. Some of the best titles are, “Kidnapped by River Rats,” “The Queen’s Smuggler,” and “Spy for the Night Riders,” but there are several more!
  • Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories by Arthur S. Maxwell — There are five volumes to this classic bedtime story set! These timeless stories are great for any generation.
  • Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy by Bernadette Russell — With this story, your kids will learn a multitude of ways to spread happiness, see firsthand examples of the importance of kindness and more helpful character training concepts.
  • Be the Change, Make it Happen by Bernadette Russell — Oftentimes, we know something needs to change but we figure someone else will take care of it. Your kids will learn about being the one to make a change, even in the smallest of ways, instead of leaving it to other people or thinking their actions won’t make a difference.
  • Illustrated Stories from Aesop by Susanna Davidson — We are all familiar with the classic fables by Aesop, but this book brings them to life!
  • The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner — The Boxcar Children books follow orphaned siblings Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. They make a home for themselves in a boxcar they find in the forest.  After a time, they find their rich grandfather, who invites the children to live with him instead. Mysteries seem to follow the boxcar children wherever they go!
  • The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars – It is said that sometimes you don’t know how much you love something until you no longer have it. For Sarah, she longed to find a way to somehow “fly” away from her younger brother, Charlie, and everything he brought to the family. She loved him, but she grew tired of him needing so much attention. Then one day, Charlie decides to take a flight on his own. Would Sarah know what to do to rescue him? Will she do it?
  • The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare – This is the story of Daniel bar Jamin, an angry young man bent on avenging his father’s death. Daniel’s hatred for the Romans only subsides when he starts hearing the stories of a traveling carpenter named Jesus of Nazareth. It is through these stories that he learns the only thing stronger than hate is love.
  • Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen – When Marly and her family move into a farmhouse, they experience many new adventures. In their new, small town, they experience the country lifestyle, recover from unhappiness, and form a much stronger bond as a family.
  • Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little – Regardless of your faith, it’s important to know what you believe and why you believe it. The same goes for students, particularly those who may be questioned by peers daily. In this Christian-based read, students will come face to face with questions such as, “What does the Bible teach about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?” and “What do angels, Satan, and demons have to do with reality?” A great read for Christian homeschooling families!
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Since its success in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in English. Jane Austen herself was so fond of it that she referred to it as her “darling child” and its heroine, Elizabeth Bennet as a “delightful creature.” With its sharp-wit humor and dramatic storyline, it’s easy to see why adults and teens alike fall in love with Pride and Prejudice over and over.
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf – Your kids can probably tell about a time when they didn’t do what everyone else was doing. That’s exactly the case with Ferdinand. When the other bulls would rather headbutt each other and cause a commotion, Ferdinand would prefer sitting off by himself smelling the flowers. That is, until one day a bee and some men from the bullfights give Ferdinand the chance to show himself as the most ferocious bull there ever was. Will Ferdinand seize the opportunity or will he pass on the offer? You’ll have to pick up the book to find out!
  • Dominic by William Steig – Dominic is a dog on an adventurous journey. Along the way, he runs into the Doomsday Gang which is a group of mischievous creatures. Dominic shows kindness to the Doomsday Gang and others, earning himself a reward which he then spreads to those less fortunate than him.
  • The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson – This is the story of an old Parisian named Armand who enjoyed living in solitude. The children who lived under the bridge, however, were not going to let him live like that. Find out how they got the old gentleman to finally accept them when you read this book about their adventures!

Courtney Newman

Courtney Newman is a homeschool graduate, a writer, and a content marketer. Other than writing, her favorite hobbies include reading, visiting the beach, and spending time with her husband and pets.