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Teaching Diligence with Literature

January 11th, 2018

“Diligence is the mother of good fortune, and idleness, its opposite, never brought a man to the goal of any of his best wishes.”

~ Miguel de Cervantes

It’s a new month as well as a new year, and here is January’s SLOCA character trait:

Diligence: Committing to doing tasks with excellence and persevering with determination and patience to complete tasks in spite of difficulties and discouragement.

Catch phrase: Do your best; don't give up!

Let’s be honest – transitioning back to school after the holiday break is often discouraging. We’ve been gloriously lazy for three weeks, and I don’t know about you but I could certainly use some motivation and diligence right now. So, continuing our series of book lists featuring SLOCA character traits, here’s this month’s collection of children’s books that feature the theme of Diligence. We hope these will help inspire you and your kids to return to school and other activities with excellence, determination, and patience. Look for them on your next visit to the local library, and many can be found in our SLOCA library:

Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola

Suggested ages: 3-7

This wordless picture book will delight young children as they watch a little old lady go to great lengths to make pancakes for breakfast.

Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell 

Suggested ages: 3-7

Here’s a modern fable for young children with delightful illustrations by Helen Oxenbury. The story is about a duck who does everything around the farm because the farmer is too lazy to do the work himself. When Farmer Duck finally collapses from exhaustion, the other farmyard animals decide to pitch in and come up with a surprising plan.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

Suggested ages: 4-7

You might already own this beloved classic! Mike Mulligan and his trusty steam shovel Mary Anne are a formidable team. They show the town of Popperville that hard work and friendship can get the job done. This is a must read with wonderful crayon drawings.

The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

Suggested ages: 4-7

Another classic that may already be on your shelf. A little boy plants a carrot seed, and though everyone tells him it won’t grow, he continues to water and care for it, knowing that his hard work will pay off in the end. This simple story highlights the value of diligence and patience.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Suggested ages: 4-7

A young girl decides to create something magnificent, but her project turns out to be far from easy, and she repeatedly tries and fails. Kids will relate to her emotions of frustration and anger, but will also see that she eventually changes her perspective, starts over, and perseveres. This story has a great message for kids about not giving up when a good idea doesn’t work out at first.

Little Kunoichi the Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida 

Suggested ages: 4-7

In a secret town on a secret island, a young ninja girl in training learns the value of determination, hard work, and cooperation. With whimsical and humorous illustrations, this playful story also teaches that practice does not have to equal perfection, and includes a “Did you know?” section about Japanese culture.

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart

Suggested ages: 4-8

When a young girl is sent to live with her cantankerous uncle, she is determined to make him smile and transform their dreary surroundings through her love of gardening. This Depression-era story is told entirely through letters sent home and features lovely illustrations.

Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Suggested ages: 4-8

A light-hearted look at diligence and problem-solving, this silly story is about a boy whose kite gets stuck in a tree. He continues to throw objects at the tree in an attempt to rescue it, creating an ever-more-humorous scenario. Kids who enjoy this book might also like another diligence-themed book by the same author: How to Catch a Star.

The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Tortoise and the Hare, and others from Aesop’s Fables

Suggested ages: 4-8

Once again we simply have to include Aesop’s Fables in this list! You’re bound to find at least one fable for each character trait in this treasury. We love this one by Milo Winter, which Primary and Intermediate will be reading at the end of this trimester. Feel free to start introducing these classic stories now, using our character traits.

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream by Deloris Jordan and‎ Roslyn M. Jordan 

Suggested ages: 4-8

We’ve got some kids who are really into basketball right now, so share this story with them about the obstacles Michael Jordan had to overcome to reach his dream of becoming a famous basketball player. It's written by his mother and sister.

There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived by Matt Tavares 

Suggested ages: 6-10

Have you noticed the sports theme? Sports biographies are great for showcasing diligence and hard work! If you have a baseball enthusiast in your home, try this exciting and inspiring picture book biography of Ted Williams, the baseball player whose determination, diligence, and sacrifice made him a legend.

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull

Suggested ages: 6-10

Here’s one more dramatic and moving sports story. This is the biography of Wilma Rudolph, who was told she would never walk again after polio paralyzed her left leg when she was a child. Refusing to give up, the fiercely determined Wilma learned not only to walk but to run, and she became the first American woman to earn three gold medals at the Olympics. An inspirational story!

The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull 

Suggested ages: 6-10

Another inspiring biography by the same author as the book above, this is the true story of a farm boy who happened to be a scientific genius. His imagination and diligence led to one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century.

Helen Keller by Margaret Davidson 

Suggested ages: 7-10

(or any biography of Helen Keller) Overcoming incredible handicaps as a child, the story of Helen Keller is sure to inspire as it displays the power of diligence and resilience.

Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

Suggested ages: Middle School and up

This is acclaimed children’s book author Gary Paulsen’s true account of his experience entering the Iditarod – the 1150-mile winter sled-dog race between Anchorage and Nome. He and his team endured countless hardships along the way, but they pushed on. A fantastic real-life adventure story for older kids and adults about determination and never giving up!

Here's this month’s downloadable mini-poster that you can print – click on the image to the right for the full-size PDF:



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