What's Happening in Character?

Three New Books for your Summer Reading

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 @ 09:06 AM

Although summer suggests time to devour fun beach reads, I suggest you consider adding one, or all, of the following new books by our upcoming Forum speakers to your reading list.


Michele Borba’s new book—just out this week—UnSelfie, Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, is fabulous. It’s clearly the work of a lifetime as she includes anecdotes from decades of work in education psychology. I had tears in my eyes before I even finished the introduction. She opens with the story of a dad who after hearing her speak on empathy 10 years ago gave her a picture of his son who had hanged himself after relentless bullying. He said, “If someone had instilled empathy in those boys, my son would be alive today.” Her touching anecdotes come from an orphanage in Rwanda to multiple troubled spots around the world as well as from schools and families across the United States and throughout the world. She documents her stories with the latest research so readers will understand through their heads as well as their hearts. There is a desperate need for empathy in today’s world.

Dr. Borba writes: “Empathy is core to everything that makes a society civilized, but above all, it makes our children better people, and that’s why I’m concerned. In the past decades, our kids’ capacity to care has plummeted while self-absorption has skyrocketed, and it puts their humanity at stake. Today’s culture values “Me” more than “We.”

But the book does more than present the essential case for empathy. Dr. Borba offers myriad solutions that are inherently doable, and she labels them according to age appropriateness. Yes, she connects the head and the heart, but she also shows the “hands”—what exactly can we do about the problems. One of my favorites was the Virtue Scrapbook. She suggests creating a scrapbook to help kids realize their character traits and caring qualities, not just their academic achievements.

She explains: “One mother filled a small album with photos and drawings depicting her child’s moral self (his kindness to friends, compassion with animals, sportsmanship on his team). ‘There’s so much competition, I wanted him to see that there’s more to life than test scores,’ she writes. ‘Whenever he has a hard day, he ‘reads’ about the ‘Good Jeffry.’”

Every parent should read this book, and every educator should read this book. And I am so glad we have Dr. Borba as a keynote for the conference in October.

Another outstanding choice is Student Discipline: A Prosocial Perspective, by Phil Brown. It is an excellent resource for educators concerned about discipline and classroom management—and isn’t that all of us? Too often disciplinary practice is punitive, unhelpful and leads to the school-to-prison pipeline. Dr. Brown shows a better way. He highlights eight schools (two are National Schools of Character) that have made significant efforts in how they view student discipline.

The educator looking to learn what works best will find much to compare, discuss and digest here. Come to his breakout session at the Forum to discuss.

My third choice is Jason Ohler’s new book, 4Four Big Ideas for the Future. Dr. Ohler will lead the pre-conference workshop on Digital Citizenship. Reading this book ahead of time is sure to get your mind primed for a fascinating discussion on a topic greatly needed today.

Dr. Ohler has been a digital citizenship expert for a long time. Like Dr. Borba and Dr. Brown he offers practical solutions combined with great storytelling. He shows the need for all of us to take charge of our growing digital landscape. As educators, we should not be passive victims and try to forbid students from using these tools, but we need to build their involvement as digital citizens to creating a caring online community like we try to build in our schools.

Register now so you don’t miss any of these fantastic presentations and so much more. And let us know in the comment section below what you are reading this summer. I’d love to hear your recommendations.