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When reading a good book, finding the attributes of the characters that distinguish them, will provide your child with unequalled life lessons. It also helps your child understand what makes a person likeable and good. And when a story includes a character that makes mistakes, your child can find a sense of security in knowing that character received justice for wrong choices and mercy when they repented.

How often have children thrilled to hear that Pinocchio finally learned to obey? Or that Mary from A Secret Garden learned about friendship and kindness? Consider this Diamante Poem written about Mary / Martha: (The pattern is given at the end—try one with your child.) (When formatted on the center, it creates a diamond.)

Spoiled, selfish,
Demanding, pouting, sulking,
India, orphan, daughter, England,
Helping, cleaning, singing,
Patient, cheerful,

Reading stories about people who make good choices, or who learn from bad choices and repent, are the best unspoken lessons your child can receive. One of my favorite children’s stories is called Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John (ages 7+). The story is about Annette, whose younger brother, Dani, is crippled by the careless act of Lucien, the village bully.

[During one of our trips to grandma’s–three hours away–my children began quarreling and the car became filled with the spirit of tension and resentment. In an attempt to divert them, I pulled out the book we’d been reading, and it happened to be Treasures of the Snow. They liked to have me read to them and quieted right down.

As I read this book, the whole feeling in the car changed. The lessons of love and forgiveness were so strong that they influenced how our children were feeling toward each other right then. I looked over at my husband, who hadn’t been listening at our bedtime reading time (so he wasn’t previously invested in the book), but listening then, he was visibly touched by the story.]

Under Characters in the literature notebook for the book you are reading, a page should be devoted to each main character. In this story those would include Annette, Lucien and Dani.

Divide each page beneath the character’s name into two columns, making a T chart and labeling the columns Internal and External. Then as the story is read, watch for the attributes of the characters and underline them in blue (for true blue). Them record the reference.

T charts could consume a couple of pages per character, so guide it according to your child’s abilities, although challenging him to stretch slightly. When children do more than they have done previously, they grow.

Often a sequence will develop where internal characteristics are manifested in external actions.

Before teaching the concept of characters, discuss the definition of the word. See the ideas on Teaching About Character. And enjoy writing a Diamante Poem.

Adjective, adjective (describing noun)
3 gerunds (ing words that apply to first noun)
4 nouns (2 related to top noun, 2 related to bottom noun)
3 gerunds (that apply to last noun)
2 adjectives (describing last noun)
Noun (often the opposite of the first one.)

Other related topics:
Elements of a Story / Author
Elements of a Story / Background
Elements of a Story / Setting
Elements of a Story / Themes