When our children were young, my wife and I attended a Virtues Project weekend which had a profound impact on how we parented. Concepts such as "speaking the language of the virtues" and "recognizing teachable moments" sat beautifully with our personal ideas about parenting and teaching. Natalie, a trained Montessori teacher, saw The Virtues Project as a valuable complement to her work in the classroom.
At the same time, our then five-year-old son was putting me on the spot each evening -- I'd begun a tradition of making up "Mali" stories at bedtime... and those improvised tales of adventure and daring were expected each night. Mali (an anagram of his name, Liam) was a swashbuckling hero who displayed the virtues -- courage, joyfulness, determination, etc. -- that both he and I loved hearing about.
And then the penny dropped for me... I realized these stories were a fantastic way to help understand virtues. While the characters sailed the seas and saved the day, they educated and inspired. I started writing down the stories with the intention of creating this book.
The Virtues Project brings virtues into everyday life. Some of the virtues are reasonably easy for young children to understand -- caring, friendliness, enthusiasm, etc. -- but some are a little more difficult. Humility, tact, respect, integrity, and so on, are reasonably complex for a young mind to grasp. When they are demonstrated through the actions of our heroes, the message is so much easier to communicate, and the understanding is easier to absorb.
As with the original Mali stories, the intention for this book is that the adult reads the story to the child. Discussion pages follow each story, containing definitions (from The Virtues Project Educator's Guide) of the virtues shown in the story, followed by questions, written as a prompt for discussion.
To ensure the stories are engaging for the child, the examples of virtues within them have been consciously kept light. As with the fables of old, the yarn drives the interest, allowing the virtue to be communicated subtly. The stories touch on the virtue, with the following discussion pages picking up from that cue, and taking the exploration further.
The questions provided are examples designed to encourage discussion and interaction. They're a catalyst to stimulate the flow of ideas, and I encourage you to add your own questions to see where the discussion takes you. It is my hope that through this process, a deeper understanding of the virtues will occur for the child.
These stories flow best when read in story order, however, with "recognizing teachable moments" in mind, they have been written to work also as standalone stories. You may recognize a particular time when it would be helpful to discuss a certain virtue (patience, or tolerance perhaps) with your children, in which case the story specific to that virtue might be a good choice.
While The Adventures of Mali & Keela has tapped into the wisdom generously offered by the creators of The Virtues Project, it is an independent publication. The fifty-two virtues discussed in this book are from The Virtues Project Educator's Guide, which was designed primarily for counselors, teachers, caregivers, and youth leaders as a guide to creating cultures of caring and integrity in schools, day care centers, and youth programs. These virtues were chosen because of their universality. They may fit very well alongside spiritual belief systems, however they are not specific to any one faith.
-- Jonathan Collins, Author