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Children's Books Best for Character Education

The following is a synopsis of the Putnam County Rotary Club meeting of Tuesday, Oct. 3.

In the 10 years since he began publishing "attitude" books for youngsters, Chuck Stump has shared his ideas with thousands of children and adults.

In the interest of standardized test scores and academic performance, schools may be neglecting the most important part of a solid education, he told Putnam Rotary today.

Too many kids today are missing out on learning the social values of trust, responsibility, caring, fairness, respect and citizenship, he said.

"Many of the kids we know get that message pretty regularly and reinforced. But for the average child, it is not reinforced.

"To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society," Stump said. "And that seems to be where we're headed in today's world.

"It's amazing how many of our kids are living with one parent, or no parents."

Stump and partner Jim Strawn welcome invitations to speak to schools, corporate groups and conventions on "character education" - providing training and encouragement for children of all ages.

"We read to [one group] of 17 kids in a third-grade class. I don't know how we got on the topic, but we found that none of those kids were living with two parents. Only three of them were living with one parent. The rest of them were living with grandparents.

"And you just think how difficult it is for folks to raise their grandkids. They have less resources, less energy, less time, plus they're just another whole generation away in terms of social media and the impact of television and the internet and all of this stuff that [kids today] are exposed to. We see kids that are really struggling.

"I had a conversation with a teacher the other day," Stump continued. "She has a kid in her class that lives with both parents, but [the parents] fight all the time - so much so that he's afraid to sleep at his house. When he comes to school, she lets him curl up in a bean bag chair behind her desk and sleep all day.

"She says, 'If I can just give him those hours of peace and comfort, then I feel like that's what I have to do.'

"A child is the only known substance from which a responsible adult can be made," Stump said. "We have to grab the opportunity - and we're not.

"But we're working on it."

West Virginia mandated character education in 2011, and 18 states now require that it be taught in all classes.

The Steven Covey program, "The Leader in Me," has been adopted in Putnam schools.

"When we go into a Covey school, we get a totally different vibe," Stump told his audience. "Those kids hold the door for you and they say, 'Yes, sir,' and 'No, sir.' And when they all sit and listen, they're perfectly quiet. It's amazing.

"We teach about all that stuff in our books," he said.

Their first publication in 2008 won a gold medal endorsement by the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards program.

That book for children from 2 to 10 years of age, "The Sad Mad Glad book - The Anatomy of Your Attitude," was well-received by the public. And Stump collaborated with Jim Strawn to turn out a series of gold award character education books.

A website for the series describes them as using vivid photos and text that incorporate folk wisdom and popular idioms.

The books help "teach children life lessons by taking something they already know and linking them to positive thoughts and behaviors.

"Anyone that enjoys molding young minds will find the unique format ... helps children share feelings and build self-esteem while they're having fun!"

The second book, which came out in 2009, helps children of all ages learn and enforce the benefits of a positive attitude and making smart choices in life.

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