Raising virtuous kids is important. But to do what is good and avoid what is wrong is not always easy for children (or grown-ups, for that matter). 

For young readers, stories can often show what virtue looks like through heroic characters, simple actions and encouraging words.

 

Before I Sleep, I Say Thank You

Written by Carol Gordon Ekster

Illustrated by Mary Rojas

Pauline, 2015

28 pages, $14.95

Multiple virtues are explored in this simple story that chronicles a child’s bedtime routine. The little boy brushes his teeth, plays choo-choo games and jumps into his cozy bed. Tuck-in time is extra special, because it includes a few special, focused moments of prayer time with Mom. Together, they take time to review the day and think of one thing that they could have each done better; then the little boy names five things for which he’s grateful. Together, they thank God for all he has given them that day. This little book provides an opportunity for cultivating the virtues of humility and thankfulness, while also setting the stage for doing a nightly examen that’s just right for the very young. Ages 3-6.

 

A Child’s Book of Virtues

Written by Kay McSpadden

Illustrated by Creations for Children International 

Stampley, 2010

62 pages, $14.95

Everyone loves a story, the author writes, especially a story that teaches about virtue. This collection of 14 stories, drawn from history, literature and folk tales, does just that. Readers will meet up with characters whose actions exemplify, to name just a few, the virtues of forgiveness (“The Bishop and Jean Valjean”), sportsmanship (“Roland and Oliver”), foresight (“Odysseus and the Cyclops”) and compassion (“Brother Martin and the Beggar”). Full-page color illustrations with thoughtful captioning and a “Glossary of Virtues” add to its appeal. Ages 6 and older.

 

Peace Is an Offering

Written by Annette Le Box

Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

Dial, 2015

32 pages, $16.99

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” This charming, provocative text makes it real — transforming lofty goals of peacemaking into words to guide everyday actions and attitudes. Through heartfelt rhymes and warm illustrations, the children depicted in this book show that peace is made through kindness and caring and through small actions that make a big difference in the lives of others. Loving, thoughtful actions can even transform very difficult times into peaceful ones: “So offer a cookie, / Walk away from a fight. / Comfort a friend / Through the long, dark night.” Ages 3-8.

 

The Children’s Book of Virtues

Edited by William J. Bennett

Illustrated by Michael Hague

Simon & Schuster, 1995

112 pages, $24

Former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett envisioned this book as a how-to manual to help children achieve moral literacy. The stories and poems contained within model courage, responsibility, faith and honesty. In paging through the collection, readers meet many old “friends” (“The Tortoise and the Hare,” “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Try, Try Again”) as well as new ones. Ages 6 and older.

 

Seven Lonely Places, Seven Warm Places: The Vices and Virtues for Children

Written by April Bolton

Illustrated by Brent Beck

St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2002

40 pages, $19.95

The virtues, both theological and cardinal, and the seven deadly sins all too often remain abstract ideas for young Catholics. Here, kid-friendly language and imaginative illustrations communicate how the virtues can rescue us from those lonely places where sin casts its net. With gluttony, for example, think chocolate-chip cookies. (“Yes, yes, yes … they must all go not beside me, not next to me, but inside me.”) Its remedy is temperance, by which we “need only a small bit … so there will be some left over for all the other people and for tomorrow.” Never preachy and always direct, this book is delightful in its approach. Ages 8 and older

 

Knit Together

Written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Dial, 2015

32 pages, $16.99

While mom knits, her little girl happily draws beside her … until, she thinks that it would be better to knit, too. Mom helps her to learn, but, it turns out, knitting is not as easy as it looks; and they wind up with equal parts of knotted yarn and frustration. In the end, they decide to work together, with Mom doing the knitting and the daughter doing the inspiring and the designing. (“And then we work to make something we could never have made alone.”) This feel-good mother-daughter tale models the importance of hard work, valuing the talents of others and caring collaboration. Ages 4-10.

 

Thank You, God

Written by J. Bradley Wigger

Illustrated by Jago

Eerdmans, 2014

24 pages, $16

This joyful book shows a happy, culturally diverse family who experience God’s blessings from sunrise to sunset. There is something to be thankful for all through the day — family, friends, the warmth of the sun, the beauty of the Earth and the wonderful moments of gathering together around the table. The beautiful illustrations bring this prayerful text to life. Together, words and pictures convey the significance of having a loving, cheerful, grateful heart. Ages 3-8.

 

Every Body Is Smart: God Helps Me to Listen and Choose

Written by Monica Ashour

Illustrated by Karol Kaminski

Pauline, 2015

10 pages, $12.95

When our tummies growl, we know we are hungry. When we feel weary and our eyes begin to droop, we know we need sleep. This beginning board book offers little ones the opportunity to appreciate their physical needs, while also learning to make good, thoughtful choices: “Sometimes even when my body tells me something, I can choose to wait like a big girl. … When my body tells me that I want to run around but I’m at Mass, I can choose to wait to play like a big boy.” This little book provides a balanced approach by inviting children to tune into their feelings, while also learning the virtues of patience and self-control. Ages 2-6.

 

The Crawford sisters write from Pittsburgh.