Written for Parents, Grandparents, Teachers, Coaches and Volunteers, Kids
Of Character: One Minute Mentoring Messages, is a soft, glossy cover of just smaller than 8 ½ x 11 inches. A collection of essays by the author, each a single page in length, and organized into a Primer for Mentors and seven chapters, an Epilogue and Resources list complete the book of 103 pages. The seven chapters are Personal Responsibility, Positive Self Worth, Purpose, Plan, Paying the Price, Partnership, and Persistence with twelve essays in each chapter. Offering ideas and resources for building character in America's young people, the book's Foreword poses the question "Who is responsible for building good character?" The response is a list of the many adults involved in the lives of children. The statement, "Character education is our shared work and obligation" is a theme carried throughout the book. Quotes abound with a full page list at the start of each chapter and notable quotes included in many essays. Quoted individuals include Albert Pike, Francis Bacon, George Washington, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Albert Einstein, Samuel Smiles, John Stuart Mill, Theodore Roosevelt, John Locke, Victor Hugo, Emily Dickenson, Marcus Aurelius, and others, with occasional scripture references from the Holy Bible. No additional material is needed as the book is intended for use by adults as encouraging words for the task of mentoring children and young adults.
Beginning with "A Primer for Character Mentors" that includes four one-page essays, the reader finds immediate encouragement for their work with children. The author quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson in his Introduction to the book, stating "that our children are the new products of nature." No where, even when reviewing his years of experience as a special education teacher and pastor, in the Introduction does he reference God's place as Creator or His centrality in building character. The book is encouraging, as it expounds on wonderful quotes, but remains vague as to the nature and involvement of God. The Foreword does comment in parenthesis that religious believers would include friendship with God when referencing loving relationships, and later, Tom Lickona continues that we are aided by God's grace as we improve our character. But these references are in the Foreword and not the author's words. The information sounds hollow without detailing biblical mandates for character or any reference to God. Time and time again he lists off character mentors, including parents, teachers, coaches, etc. without ever commenting on biblical examples and what we can learn from them, even if they are not an individual daily influencing our lives. Wonderful quotes are included, like: "Character is conceived in thought and defined by action." He includes good comments on making choices and understanding that every day and every moment provides another opportunity to choose, and most importantly to head in a better direction in life, but fails to tie in salvation and the ultimate: a personal relationship with Christ. Other quotes are simply so vague that they could just as easily move an individual away from God as closer to Him. For example, "I am the architect and craftsman of my life because I am freedom's choice maker." Where is God to be found in this statement, or any reference to God as creator? It isn't there.
Another essay on "The Internal Force" never mentions God or the Holy Spirit. "You are bigger than your problems." It goes on to say that children are strengthened when they experience their ability to move through their problems. Time and time again I was disappointed in lost opportunities to encourage mentors to point children toward God, not singly to themselves, but to their Creator. The author does list special people he admired and doesn't list a single ministry person, although he does stress service, "even as Johnny Appleseed planted for apples he would never see or enjoy, our children can serve for the future." The author also capitalized nature and references, "Nature's way for, we, mortals." The book includes encouraging words about planning for the future, and has a good rundown of "paying the price" for things, from groceries to hurtful words, but too often fails to credit God. Overall the book quotes and references a large range of individuals with positive and encouraging views of life, but he could have drawn from scripture or Christian leaders consistently and chooses not to. Instead, his pool of mentoring leadership includes the Dalai Lama, Abraham Maslow and "Third Force Psychology" (a humanistic psychology believing all humans are inherently good), and Zig Ziglar. The quote he chooses to use from Ziglar, "I believe that you will get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want," is expounded upon as the author eventually states in his essay: "As we encourage the well-being of others, we attract our good." The closing of this particular essay is "So do you want to get? Ziglar might say, "Okay, sounds good. Here's the new strategy: Give!" Although I desire to train my children and mentor other children for service and giving of themselves, even an inkling of doing so in order to receive anything for themselves goes against my Christian belief system. The inclusion of quotes from Abraham Lincoln, George Washington's "Rules of Civility," Robert Schuller, and various websites for further character education support is simply not enough to make up for the overall lack of reference to God, a personal savior, and the Holy Spirit to guide character development.
There is good to be found within the pages of Kids Of Character:
One Minute Mentoring Messages, and it includes a resource list of helpful websites and closes with an Epilogue of scripture. Unfortunately, having scripture in the Epilogue seemed fitting, as if it were an afterthought rather than the heart of the book in its entirety. Good can be found, but the reader will need to pay attention to do so. My favorite statement is found toward the end of the book: "We are all shaped by the generosity of spirit that comes to us from significant others who know when there is a moment to connect...and they do not miss the moment because of a nose-to-the-grindstone preoccupied mind." It is a touching reminder to busy home schooling parents to not miss a moment of opportunity to reach our children while we are busy with the task of teaching. I do not ever want to miss the importance of the single tree, turned cross, that held our savior, because I am overwhelmed with the forest that is the calling of home schooling. I do not want to miss the importance of mentoring my children, but then, they are my children, as gifts from God, and so I prefer the idea of parenting over the more distant title of mentoring. This book is an encouraging reminder to parents that we are not only teaching our children, but we influence the lives of many other children in our lives as well. Although I am not wholeheartedly impressed with this particular book, it is a strong reminder that we should be ready, active, and Bible based when teaching all children in our lives, including our own. More encouragement will be found in the good book at your bedside table, your Bible, rather than in the pages of Kids
Of Character: One Minute Mentoring Messages. Use this book on loan from the library, or purchase it as short encouragement for the journey, but base your knowledge in the Word of God, because you won't find much of God's word in this book.