Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 04/09/2008 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. Short and sweet stories to reinforce Christian virtues in toddlers.
Over many years now, baby shower attendees have bought expectant mothers the individual hardcover children’s books in the First Virtues series by Mary Manz Simon, usually accompanied by a plush toy of the same species of animal appearing in the book. In 2006 Standard Publishing pooled the twelve stories together in a six-by-six hardcover book. The binding is quite durable and the cover is cushiony plastic – ideal for the toddler treatment.
For those of you who have never heard of the First Virtues, every virtue in the series is exemplified by an illustrated animal: “Kitty Shows Kindness”, “Piglet Tells the Truth”, “Bunny Loves Others”, and so on and so forth. To date, twelve virtues have been explored in these little books. Alongside kindness, truth and loving others, the books deal with patience, forgiveness, making friends, saying thank you, obedience, joyfulness, sharing, politeness, and doing your best. Our three year old son’s favorite story happens to be “Duckling is Patient”, while his mother and I find that the stories we direct him to usually tend to be “Bear Obeys” and “Lion Can Share” – the latter especially when his younger sister is involved.
No matter which virtue is under consideration, each story begins and ends with the Bible, from “Squirrel, Squirrel / share today / what the Bible / has to say…” to the Scripture verse rounding out each chapter. As you can see, each page features simple rhymes designed to help children remember the words. While the rhymes are sweet and simple for the most part, sometimes it seems that the writer has forced a rhyme. But toddlers don’t notice such things; mine don’t, anyhow.
The book also features a twelve-page appendix of parent helps correlated to the book’s contents. On each topic, Manz offers a paragraph of tips on how to help your toddler build godly character in that specific virtue, followed by a bullet-point list of ways to catch your child being kind or loving or truthful, etc. I would go so far as to say that the concept of catching my children being good has been one of the defining concepts in my parenting style. It’s all too easy to address the bad, but reinforcing the good on a frequent basis is just as important as reprimanding the bad.
Finally, I would strongly recommend Manz’s book on the basis of its encouragement to toddlers in developing godly character. It is not simply a behavior modification tool. Certainly, behavior will improve when its precepts are applied, but never for the sake of behavior alone. Every story underscores the fact that Christians are to live to serve God and others.
Now that the First Virtues stories have been compiled into one affordable volume, it’s possible to collect all twelve in one fell swoop – that is, unless you don’t mind missing out on the plush toys.