Tending the Heart of Virtue

Dear Tending the Heart of Virtue,

I appreciated the deeper dive into how good books can support the healthy development or children’s minds. I left our brief time together not only with an increased awareness of the impact of books with moral story-lines, but also with a list of recommended reading!

With Love,

P.S. Book Details
Author: Vigen Guroian
Book Length: 208 pages
Book Genre: Education, Non-Fiction
Publication Date: February 2002
Synopsis: As the popularity of William Bennett’s Book of Virtues attests, parents are turning more and more to children’s literature to help instill values in their kids. Now, in this elegantly written and passionate book, Vigen Guroian provides the perfect complement to books such as Bennett’s, offering parents and teachers a much-needed roadmap to some of our finest children’s stories.
Guroian illuminates the complex ways in which fairy tales and fantasies educate the moral imagination from earliest childhood. Examining a wide range of stories–from “Pinocchio” and “The Little Mermaid” to “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “The Wind in the Willows,” and the “Chronicles of Narnia”–he argues that these tales capture the meaning of morality through vivid depictions of the struggle between good and evil, in which characters must make difficult choices between right and wrong, or heroes and villains contest the very fate of imaginary worlds. Character and the virtues are depicted compellingly in these stories; the virtues glimmer as if in a looking glass, and wickedness and deception are unmasked of their pretensions to goodness and truth. We are made to face the unvarnished truth about ourselves, and what kind of people we want to be.
Throughout, Guroian highlights the classical moral virtues such as courage, goodness, and honesty, especially as they are understood in traditional Christianity. At the same time, he so persuasively evokes the enduring charm of these familiar works that many readers will be inspired to reread their favorites and explore those they may have missed.


“Tending the Heart of Virtue” examined the impact literature has on a child’s moral development. As I read the book, I could relate to the experience of reading a book as a child and wanting to be like the character. While there were many books in “Tending the Heart of Virtue” which I hadn’t read before, there are impactful books such as “Anne of Green Gables” or “Dealing with Dragons”, I was changed by as a young girl. I left this book with a feeling of responsibility to facilitate conversations with my own children and the people around me on how we relate to books.

“Moral living is about being responsible and responsible toward other people. And virtues are those traits of character that enable persons to use their freedom in morally responsible ways” (p. 19). How a person lives their life and striving to live a good life is at the forefront of many persons lives. Add on parenting another little human to live a good life, and things can get a little bit sticky. One of the most wonderful things about books, to me, is the ability to live a hundred different lives. Living through a bunch of experiences is beneficial when learning morality and practicing good character. Children and adults alike have the opportunity to walk in characters shoes for a couple hours and think about decisions (both the good and the bad). We can empathize, criticize, and connect simply through the pages of a book.

I am not advocating to isolate children and keep them from making their own mistakes. Building character happens through experiences. Yet, with a framework in their mind of what others have done before them, imagine the critical thinking going on in their minds. Every experience doesn’t have to be new and overwhelming because Auggie (from “Wonder”) dealt with going to a new school and this is how he reacted. Or, when Princess Irene was really scared she could ask for help from her grandmother (Princess and the Goblin). Or even things as simple as, Anne was really scared to recite a poem in front of a bunch of people, but she did it anyway and enjoyed it (Anne of Green Gables). In the same way books are an encouragement to children, they are also an encouragement to adults, for the very same reasons. Leaving this book, I am encouraged to read deeply and widely. To travel, to jump into the unknown, to cry and laugh, and to experience life in and out of the pages.

These are simply my thoughts on the book, my personal reflections. I am sure every reader will pull something out of this book for personal or professional use. This book promotes critical thinking for the reader and challenges application of the concepts purposefully drawn out. I would recommend this book to teachers, parents, mentors, and students. We can all benefit from the reminder that a good book is a good book, beyond the immediate entertainment value.



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