Civilization 101 for Children

Absolutely delightful. That’s the only way to describe Everyday Graces: A Child’s Book of Good Manners, Karen Santorum’s collection of illustrative stories and poems to inspire proper manners in children.

Consider for a moment that manners seem to be a scarce commodity these days. Between the rude telemarketers, insane drivers, filthy language in movies and music and a general “who gives a hoot about anything” attitude in society, parents are up against the cultural tide when it comes to raising children with good manners.

But fear not. Everyday Graces makes the daunting task of teaching manners to our children downright pleasant.

Children love to be read to and they will love hearing the stories and poems in this book. When I sat down to read it to myself, I was quickly surrounded by my children who begged me to share the funny things I was reading. So I began with Why Do I Have to Clean My Room? by Jack Prelutsky.

Why do I have to clean my room
when I would rather play?
The crayons scattered on the floor
are hardly in the way.
I almost never trip upon
my basketball or drums,
and I don’t pay attention
to the cake and cookie crumbs.
Why do I have to clean my room?
I think my room looks nice.
There’s pizza in the corner,
but it’s only half a slice.
I’m not at all concerned about
the gravy on the chair,
my piles of model planes and trains,
my stacks of underwear.
I will admit some bits of clay
are sticking to the wall.
I scarcely even notice them
and do not mind at all.
Beneath my bed there’s just a wedge
of last week’s apple pie,
and yet I have to clean my room???
I simply don’t know why.

“Read some more!” they clamored as they were virtually rolling on the floor with laughter. Sometimes the truth just hits too close to home, and it’s absolutely hilarious when the story is about “someone else.” Without pointing accusing fingers, children can pick up on the story’s focus and apply it to their own situation, or room, as the case may be.

Karen Santorum draws on poems, classic stories, myths and literature to illustrate the importance of: Good manners at home, guarding the tongue, manners at the table, washing and dressing, appreciating people with disabilities, caring for the elderly and the sick, getting along with others, manners in school, sportsmanship, letter writing, good manners for church, weddings and funerals, kindness toward animals and respect for our country. Every part of life is made more pleasant by the existence of good manners.

For troubles between siblings, try reading the lovely little poem, “Love Between Brothers and Sisters” by Isaac Watts. The story of Amelia Bedelia lends itself to the importance of understanding directions before undertaking the task at hand. The Greek myth of Icarus flying too close to the sun illustrates the need to listen to our parents. A selection from Toad and Frog teaches the importance of doing unpleasant tasks today instead of putting them off until tomorrow.

How to answer the telephone or set the table are told in the most delightful way. Anne “with an e” Shirley makes many appearances in the book. Joseph’s Coat shows children how deeply words can wound another and cause unintended consequences.

With selections from Pippi Longstocking, Pinocchio, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Alice in Wonderland the importance of good manners simply come to life.

The necessity of good sportsmanship, and the responsibility to set a good example, was something understood and taken seriously by sports’ greats like Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial and Jackie Robinson. Reading the short biographies on these men stature really makes some other characters in the world of sports look very small.

Lastly, patriotism is not forgotten with the inclusion of American classics such as America the Beautiful, In Flanders’ Fields, The Flag Goes By, The Star Spangled Banner, and instruction in proper flag etiquette.

Storytelling has long been one of the most effective pedagogical methods available and for that reason Everyday Graces won’t be one of those books that just sits on the shelf collecting dust. I think it’s destined in my house to become a family favorite. As Mary Poppins might say, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way.”


To puchase Everyday Graces, click here.