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Teaching Humility with Literature

February 1st, 2018

“Pride in our intellectual achievements, hubris, is a death knell to the kind of real education that produces virtue, and children are very susceptible to being drawn into this kind of pride, as are their parents. Our educational system of grades, prizes, contests, tests, and “My child is an honor student” bumper stickers has a tendency to make educational efforts more a matter of performing well than of achieving wisdom. If virtue is the true goal of classical education, pride in intellectual achievement is the perfect stumbling block to ensure that the goal is never reached. In other words, we must not only become humble, but remain humble if we want to continue our pursuit of wisdom and virtue.”

~ Karen Glass, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition

January was a short school month, and it’s already time to move on to our SLOCA character trait for February:

Humility: Knowing, accepting and being who we are while demonstrating modesty about our accomplishments and gifts, admitting mistakes and valuing others for who they are and for their input.

Catch phrase: Admit mistakes and cheer others on.

Ooooh, humility is a tough one, isn’t it? I, for one, can easily relate to the quote above. On a positive note, Friday Flops has been one tangible way our community can demonstrate humility – we are encouraging one another to admit our mistakes and cheer each other on! And it's interesting how often a good sense of humor goes along with humility. 

Charlotte Mason gave this slightly different perspective: “Humility does not think much or little of itself; it does not think of itself at all. It is a negative rather than a positive quality, being an absence of self-consciousness rather than the presence of any distinctive virtue.” That’s something to think about…

In the meantime, to continue our “teaching character with literature” series, here are a few books we’ve gathered that feature Humility as a theme or dominant character trait (or lacking character trait!). Enjoy any of these titles with your kids while snuggling them – make learning with literature a warm and memorable experience of sharing books and ideas:

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt 

Suggested ages: 3-7

This is a humorous book with fun illustrations about crayons who become conceited and start complaining about their purpose in life. Duncan, the main character, helps address each issue and the crayons learn to value each other and cooperate.


The Emperor's New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen

Suggested ages: 4-8

A well-known tale about how the vain emperor learns a lesson in humility, as only Hans Christian Andersen can tell it. Any version of this story will do, but this particular version is beautifully illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton, creator of such favorites as Mike Mulligan and His Steam ShovelThe Little House, and Katy and the Big Snow.

The Tower: A Story of Humility by Richard Paul Evans 

Suggested ages: 4-8

As the title suggests, the purpose of this book is to teach about humility. Set in ancient China, a young man builds a high tower in the hopes of making himself great, only to discover how wrong he is. Through meeting a wise old woman he learns, ”To be great is not to be higher than another, but to lift another higher."

Humble Pie by Jennifer Donnelly 

Suggested ages: 4-8

This wise and funny tale is set in medieval times and opens with the line, “Once upon a time, and a long time ago it was, there lived a very bad boy named Theo.” Kids seem to love stories about naughty children, don’t they? When his grandmother bakes the greedy, selfish boy into a gigantic, magical “humble pie,” he eventually learns compassion and humility.

The Cardinal and the Crow by Michael Moniz 

Suggested ages: 4-8

Inspired by Aesop’s fables, here’s a story about a smart crow and a boastful cardinal, with the moral “pride and foolishness often go hand in hand.”

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

Suggested ages: 5-9

Here are three classic tales about humility from the beloved Dr. Seuss. If you have this book on your shelf, get it out and enjoy these humorous stories with your kiddos!


Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne

Suggested ages: 6 and up

Another book you probably already own – when was the last time you read this aloud? There’s always a lot to learn from wise and humble Pooh.

The Legend of the Beaver's Tail by Stephanie Shaw

Suggested ages: 7-10

This is a retelling of an Ojibwe legend, about how Beaver once had a fluffy, soft tail that made him so prideful he drove away his friends. Learn how his vanity eventually results in a flattened tail.

The Dog Prince by Lauren Mills

Suggested ages: 7-10

A Beauty and the Beast-like fairytale in which a haughty prince learns the classic "pride goeth before a fall" lesson.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Suggested ages: 8-12

This award-winning novel for middle schoolers is set during the Depression in the 1930s and follows a wealthy Mexican girl’s fall from riches. While this isn't the typical story of a spoiled, bratty kid who needs to learn a lesson, the endearing main character must adjust to a much humbler lifestyle as an immigrant farm worker in California, and find a way to overcome her difficult circumstances.



Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Suggested ages: 9 and up

The lovable orphan Anne Shirley is continually learning humility in this hilarious, heart-warming classic. A wonderful read aloud, and great for boys or girls!

Here's this month’s downloadable mini-poster that you can print – click on the image to the right for the full-size PDF:



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