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Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination [Paperback]

Vigen Guroian
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Feb 2002 How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination
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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (7 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195152646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195152647
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 778,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

This is a book written primarily for parents, though it may be read with prophet by others. It builds upon and answers to current interest in moral education and the rearing of children. And certainly, for parents looking for ideas about where to start reading to their children, (The University Bookman)

About the Author

will prove a good place to begin.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The American writer Flannery O'Connor spoke a simple but profound truth when she said that "a story is a way to say that can't be said any other way.... Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars December 28 issue of Breakpoint 4 Jan 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
When Vigen Guroian [veegun ga-ROY-un] set out to teach a class on children's literature to his undergraduate students at Loyola College in Maryland,he invited his daughter's fourth-grade class in for some of the discussions. But after a discussion of Pinocchio, the undergrads were shocked and embarrassed to find that the fourth-graders had understood the book better than they had. Why was this?
The answer, Guroian says, is that we have neglected the development of the moral imagination. The college students literally were less capable of understanding the moral themes in the story of Pinocchio.
As Guroian writes in his new book, Tending the Heart of Virtue, the undergrads noticed that the fourth-graders were better at grasping "the nature and source of Pinocchio's temptations and backsliding, and were less ready to excuse him for the behavior that got him into so much trouble and caused his father such grief."
His students even began to suspect that "maybe they had lost something in growing up -- a sense of wonder that might have been better tended and retained" if they had been brought up reading books like Pinocchio. "Perhaps," Guroinan concludes, "the fourth graders they had met were actually nearer than they to the wellsprings of human morality and were better served by reading Pinocchio than they had been by taking a required college course in ethics."
Guroian's new book is subtitled, How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination, and in it he explains that children are born with a strong moral sense. They always want to know if a character in a story is good or bad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute must read for all parents. 9 Jun 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book is a classic "must read" for all parents who want to instill solid character into their children. Guroian reviews many of the "classic" fairy tales and reveals the unbelievable distortion that has occurred with modern day translations, abridged versions, and animated movies. Time after time, Guroian traces the same awful conversion from the original Christian virtues and values to the quicksand-like obsessions with physical beauty, romantic love, and self. Reading his book gives parent's the truth about why fairy tales are so important for "tending the heart of virtue" in their children. For children reading the original fairy tales, they will see themselves and the deeper reality of things, complete with good and evil components, in a framework of an interesting and powerfully written story. In subsequently reading the original Pinocchio (covered in the book) to my two boys (8 and 10); we were all absolutely "stunned" by Collodi's brilliance, his language, and the truth that this great classic reveals about ourselves.
Don't miss this one. You and your children will benefit immensely.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Ed
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A well-written book about an important subject. If you are wondering why and how our societies have let down so many children and what good parents can and ought to do about their own children take a look at this book.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars December 28 issue of Breakpoint 4 Jan 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When Vigen Guroian [veegun ga-ROY-un] set out to teach a class on children's literature to his undergraduate students at Loyola College in Maryland,he invited his daughter's fourth-grade class in for some of the discussions. But after a discussion of Pinocchio, the undergrads were shocked and embarrassed to find that the fourth-graders had understood the book better than they had. Why was this?
The answer, Guroian says, is that we have neglected the development of the moral imagination. The college students literally were less capable of understanding the moral themes in the story of Pinocchio.
As Guroian writes in his new book, Tending the Heart of Virtue, the undergrads noticed that the fourth-graders were better at grasping "the nature and source of Pinocchio's temptations and backsliding, and were less ready to excuse him for the behavior that got him into so much trouble and caused his father such grief."
His students even began to suspect that "maybe they had lost something in growing up -- a sense of wonder that might have been better tended and retained" if they had been brought up reading books like Pinocchio. "Perhaps," Guroinan concludes, "the fourth graders they had met were actually nearer than they to the wellsprings of human morality and were better served by reading Pinocchio than they had been by taking a required college course in ethics."
Guroian's new book is subtitled, How Classic Stories Awaken a Child's Moral Imagination, and in it he explains that children are born with a strong moral sense. They always want to know if a character in a story is good or bad. "This need to make moral distinctions," he says, "is a gift, a grace, that human beings are given at the start of their lives." But it is a gift that needs to be cultivated or it will atrophy and disappear.
And that's exactly what's happening, as Guroian's experience with college students has proved. "Our society," Guroian warns, "is embracing an antihuman trinity of pragmatism, subjectivism, and cultural relativism that denies the existence of a moral sense or a moral law." And in this intellectual climate, the moral imagination is being starved.
One of the best remedies can be found in classic literature. Moral education is best accomplished through stories, through depictions of courage and the other virtues, showing what they look like in action. A classic story like Pinocchio or Peter Pan or the Velveteen Rabbit communicates vital truths about what it is to be human. It teaches us what bravery is, how to resist temptation, how to practice love and self-sacrifice. A dry course on ethics simply cannot begin to bring these themes to life in the same way.
Why not pick up a copy of Guroian's Tending the Heart of Virtue, and reacquaint yourself with classic children's literature, and read it to your children. Who knows? If you start early enough, by the time they're in college--even the most secular one imaginable--they just might graduate with as much moral discernment as they had when they were in fourth grade.
Charles W. Colson (c) 1998 Prison Fellowship Ministries
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute must read for all parents. 9 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is a classic "must read" for all parents who want to instill solid character into their children. Guroian reviews many of the "classic" fairy tales and reveals the unbelievable distortion that has occurred with modern day translations, abridged versions, and animated movies. Time after time, Guroian traces the same awful conversion from the original Christian virtues and values to the quicksand-like obsessions with physical beauty, romantic love, and self. Reading his book gives parent's the truth about why fairy tales are so important for "tending the heart of virtue" in their children. For children reading the original fairy tales, they will see themselves and the deeper reality of things, complete with good and evil components, in a framework of an interesting and powerfully written story. In subsequently reading the original Pinocchio (covered in the book) to my two boys (8 and 10); we were all absolutely "stunned" by Collodi's brilliance, his language, and the truth that this great classic reveals about ourselves.
Don't miss this one. You and your children will benefit immensely.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prompted to re-read the classics 20 Dec 2001
By Ellen Shay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I stumbled across this book a few years ago when browsing through the various sections on Amazon's web site (it was in the National Public Radio section). The reviews sounded interesting, so I took a chance. I am so glad I did.
Like most people, I have been bombarded with the "Disney-fied" versions of most of our children's classics, where all the characters are cute and there are several shades of gray when it comes to the moral or point of the story. I had forgotten how dark the original fairy tales were and how clear they were about good and evil. The part of the book about Guroian's college class and a fourth grade class' reading of Pinochio reminded me just how much children really understand and how clearly and, sometimes, simply they view the world.
Reading this book has prompted me to find copies of the original stories. What an interesting discussion it would be to compare adults' and children's understanding of the how the original versions of the stories differ from the more recent or animated versions.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars having spent the day with the author... 12 Feb 2010
By W. Richard Marsh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I teach at a Christian Classical school and we have been reading this book together as a faculty over the school year. Recently we brought the author to town and were treated to both group and personal discussion with him about this book. Please ignore the "professional" reviews by those who cannot tolerate their conscience to come in contact with any work that appeals to a Christian source of morality. This book does a great job of reminding us that moral education is best taught through narrative, that a simple story carries more weight than years of lecture.

Modern child psychology tells us that we are respecting our children's "freedom" by allowing them to determine right from wrong and to choose for themselves clear goals of moral living. But this is synonymous to allowing them to choose for themselves what is good and healthy for them to eat, or what to learn at school. It is ridiculous to leave children to make such decisions for themselves because they lack the knowledge and life experiences that would allow them to choose properly. Children need our guidance as parents, teachers, and concerned adults to care for and nurture their moral being as well as their physical and mental being.

Guroian defines moral imagination as the process by which the self makes metaphors out of experiences and then uses those metaphors to find and suppose moral connections in experiences. Children naturally lack a wealth of life experience, and so fairy tales allow a child to explore metaphors without having the experience themselves. They can be transported to other worlds, imagine themselves in the place of heroes, and live through the struggles, glories, and moral dilemmas of the characters. The risks can be taken without having to endure the consequences of failure and the benefits and the rewards of success can be enjoyed freely. These images and metaphors then stay with the reader long after the story ends.

And so the goal is to provide stores of sound and virtuous substance for our children to read, and to explore the moral implications with them. Having read Guroian's section on the original story of Pinocchio, I purchased a copy and read it to my children a little bit at a time after supper each night. We were all captivated by the antics and difficulties of the troublesome marionette, but my children began to draw parallels between what was happening to the puppet and the events of their own lives. They would relate how a similar circumstance had happened to them or someone they knew, or comment how if they ever got in a situation like Pinocchio they would make better choices. Each chapter gave us the opportunity to discuss some aspect of what it means to "grow up" into a real child. Guroian's book provides a wealth of insight into Pinocchio and a few other good stories like it, and gives inspiration to read and reread these good stories with our children and find hidden treasures that we may have missed.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom in Action 23 Sep 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Professor Guroian's latest work provides the reader with a challenging prescription for developing moral excellence. The framework of the Aristotleian notions of intellectual and moral virtue give an ancient and yet ever so modern perspective to his understanding of the practical science of ethics illuminated by fairy tales and modern children's literature. Those who are responsible for the young will do well to make frequent reference to this book.
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