On a crowded New York City bus, a man reads aloud a newspaper story about a
female gorilla who saved an endangered toddler in the zoo. One teenage girl
is so moved by the story that she immediately offers her bus seat to an
elderly lady. In "The Kindness of Children," educator Vivian Gussin Paley recounts stories
such as these to demonstrate the power of story in shaping children's
morality. The brief book mostly tells of Paley's experiences in visiting
classrooms and hearing students' responses to various tales of compassion.
Interspersed throughout the classroom episodes are conversations with her
mother, a nonagenarian Jewish immigrant who draws parallels between Paley's
stories and the Hasidic tales of her youth. Hasidic rabbis, Paley discovers,
believed that "the moral universe rests on the breath of schoolchildren."
While Paley sometimes overstates the case for the innate goodness of
children, she powerfully reveals how such goodness can be molded through
story and playacting.
In "Growing Strong Daughters," Wheaton College sociology professor Lisa
Graham McMinn offers a focused, theologically nuanced guide to girls'
development. Here, the social conscience of "Reviving Ophelia" meets the
Christian church, which often subtly discourages girls from becoming all that
they can. In tackling the longstanding nature/nurture debate, McMinn wisely
points out that it is longstanding precisely because it is complex and does
not lend itself to pat answers. She notes that Christians too
often adopt our culture's pattern of devaluing anything associated with
womanhood. McMinn speaks from her professional expertise as well as her
personal experiences as the mother of three daughters. This thoughtful and
perceptive guide should be on the bookshelves of parents, educators, and