Teaching Character Through Literature: Responsibility - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering options to make education work for families. We have a full hybrid program for grades pre-12, which means part-time classroom and part-time home instruction with a 4 day option for middle school and a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

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Teaching Character Through Literature: Responsibility

A story meets the child where he is.  It sparks an authentic desire within him to do better, try harder, and love more.  It allows each of our kids a vicarious experience, giving them the precious gift of practice.  Stories reach us where nothing else can and quicken the heartbeat of the hero within us.  There is simply no substitute for story. — Sarah Mackenzie, The Read-Aloud Family

Stories are powerful teachers. As Sarah Mackenzie reminds us, they offer our children practice. As they imagine themselves in the story they ask, “How would I respond? Would I choose to be brave or kind, etc.?”  Each month we will highlight several books that will give your child the opportunity to “practice” the character trait of the month.

Today, Nicole Durrant, our SLOCA Librarian, has compiled for us a collection of literature for varying ages that exemplifies our character trait of the month: Responsibility.

Responsibility: Basing decisions on practical wisdom and good sense, being dependable in carrying out commitment and duties, and being accountable for one’s words, behavior, and actions.

Catchphrase: Think before you act; finish what you begin; take responsibility for yourself.


Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car by John Burningham

When Mr. Gumpy decides to go for a ride in his bright-red car, everyone joins in — a rabbit, a cat, a dog, a sheep, chickens, a calf, a goat, and a boy and girl. They all squash in and chug along happily — for a while. Then it starts to rain, and the car becomes stuck in the mud. Who will help Mr. Gumpy push the car out? “Not me,” says each passenger. In the end, however, they all must pitch in to help Mr. Gumpy. {Picture book, ages 3 and up.}

Franklin Wants a Pet by Paulette Bourgeois

In this classic Franklin story, all Franklin has wanted since he was little is a pet. Franklin comes up with the idea of impressing his parents by taking care of his stuffed dog. After Franklin’s parents notice how much responsibility he is taking on, Franklin ends up surprising everyone by adopting a pet fish. {Picture book ages 3 and up.}

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola 

Big Anthony is supposed to take care of Strega Nona’s house while she’s gone. But will he be able to do as he’s told, and can he remember simple instructions? This funny story shows what not to do when it comes to being responsible. {Caldecott Honor picture book, ages 3 and up.}

The Talking Eggs by Robert San Souci

A colorful folktale of the American South, illustrated by the award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney. Sweet Blanche is forced to do all the hard work for her lazy mother and sister, until one day her kindness to an old witch-woman brings her into a miraculous world of two-headed cows, dancing rabbits, and talking eggs. Blanche’s kindness, and her ability to follow directions, turns her life from misery to joy. {A Caldecott Honor Picture book, ages 4 and up.}

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

Lilly loves everything about school, especially her cool teacher, Mr. Slinger. But when Mr. Slinger confiscates her prized plastic purse, Lilly’s anger leads to vengeance, and then bitter remorse, and she sets out to make amends. This charming picture book shows how one young student learns to take responsibility for her actions. {Picture book, ages 4 and up.}

The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey

On a peaceful Saturday morning, before the rest of the world is awake, a young paperboy and his trusty dog, make their way along his route, thinking about all kinds of things along the way. There is an overall sense of peace and contentment in a job well done, as the boy and his pup crawl back into his bed, which is still warm. {Caldecott Honor picture book ages 4 and up.}


The Tree Lady:  the True Story of How One Tree Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by Joseph Hopkins

This beautifully illustrated book follows the true-life story of Kate Session. Kate Session grew up loving trees and went on to be the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a science degree. When she landed in San Diego as a teacher, she was determined to help the city grow from a dry, desert town into a lush garden. Kate’s wisdom and dedication helped her to convince the city to plant hundreds of trees every year, as she later became known as the Mother of Balboa Park. {Ages 5 and up.}

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner 

It’s hard to imagine four kids living on their own but the newly orphaned Alden children cope by running away from a grandfather they’ve never met and believe to be cruel to live on their own in a boxcar. Henry, the oldest at 14, gets odd jobs to earn money to buy them food. Jessie, 12, is the mother hen. Violet, 10, paints and sews. Benny, just 6, is the baby. Thankfully, the grandfather turns out to be kind and takes the kids home to live with him, but they do manage to cope on their own. {Chapter book, ages 7 and up.}

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink 

Whether she is crossing the lake on a raft, visiting an Indian camp, or listening to the tales of the circuit rider, the adventures of this eleven-year-old redhead provide an exciting and authentic picture of life on the Wisconsin frontier in the 1860s. Scarcely out of one scrape before she is into another, Caddie refuses to be a “lady,” preferring instead to run the woods and play pranks with her brothers. But Caddie learns that accepting responsibility for the welfare of others means you must be kind, as well as brave. {Chapter book, ages 9 and up.}

The Secret School by Avi

Ida Bison’s dream is to one day attend high school and become a teacher. However, when the one-room school in Ida’s remote Colorado town shuts down, her only hope is to keep the school open without any adults finding out. Although Ida is only fourteen, she is willing to tackle the job. But she has taken on a lot of responsibility, helping her parents work the farm while teaching seven students of different ages—and what about her own studies? {Newbery Medal Award Winner Chapter book, ages 9 and up.}

Slacker, by Gordon Korman

When eighth-grader Cameron Boxer creates the Positive Action Group at school he intends it as a diversion to fool his parents, teachers, and sister into letting him continue to concentrate on his video-gaming. But before he knows it other kids are taking it seriously, and soon he finds himself president of the P.A.G. and involved in community service. The boy who never cared about anything is now the center of everything, whether he likes it or not. {Chapter book, ages 9 and up.}

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart 

When a strange ad appears in the newspaper, many children enroll to take a series of mysterious tests. Only four very special children will succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. Their goal is to stop the ending of their world as they know it. As the children undergo their mission they learn how to rely on each other and how to always try to do what they have promised to do, no matter how difficult. {Chapter book, ages 8 and up.}





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