The idea for ValuedMinds.com struck when I was ‘just’ trying to be a good parent. I had spent too much time unsuccessfully searching a ‘big box’ bookstore for compelling and rational* stories. The dinner I was responsible for preparing would be an hour late! What with teaching six science classes a day, commuting and trying to raise my daughters, the search for good children’s literature consumed too much time. Even books with glowing reviews and awards were often quite poor. I realized that every other busy parent with small children had the same problem.
Parents looking for books were at the mercy of the changing, often fad driven, perceptions of publishers, marketers and retailers. How could we discover that incredibly good book that politically-correct judges dismissed, or find that never-mentioned classic from 40 years ago, or even five years ago? What search process would bring such books to the fore? What standards were needed to distinguish them?
As a teacher I had learned that few books rewarded children for the time they spent quietly reading. Friends and ‘fun’ always won their attention when the alternative was a struggle with unfamiliar words, odd ideas and an uninteresting plot.
Assigned reading at school worsens the problem. Books are chosen because they are ‘classics’ or because they communicate ‘messages’ that are popular with activists or perennially skeptical academics (who teach the teachers). It’s still worse in high school. Shakespeare is a brilliant author, but his fatalistic stories hardly instill teens with a love of life or reading—quite the opposite. As for the stories preferred by activists and academics, many students complained of being dragged into ideals a teacher or the (school) ‘system’ wanted. They were aware of the indoctrination.
From the start, children need books about struggling and winning. They need a sense of how it works. They need to be shown that well-reasoned, determined, honest, productive effort will provide their route to success, to self-esteem and to happiness. They need to see Mankind —especially themselves— as fundamentally good. They need to see how ideas dramatically effect one’s success and happiness; as cause and effect. What could be more exciting than seeing that you truly are a wonderful being and have fabulous opportunities ahead of you?
To bring positive views to children’s minds, I extended my personal interest in philosophical principles to principles of writing (childrens) fiction and non-fiction, as surely as I was pursuing another graduate degree. I had to set the standards so this site and its approach to books would work for parents. I hope you and, more importantly, children will benefit from it.
* Rational books can include the irrationalities of fantasy —all that is required is that the fantasy aspects be obvious or admitted.
MY RÉSUMÉ INCLUDES:
- Bachelor of Education – University of Toronto
- Masters of Science (Wildlife Biology) - McGill University
- Honors Bachelor of Science (Biology) - University of Guelph
- Stay at Home Dad
- High School Science Teacher, & Swim Coach
- Research Biologist – Rabies Research, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
- Curatorial Assistant – Royal Ontario Museum
- Field Technician & Program Design Assistant -L. Simcoe Fisheries Assessment Unit
- Teaching Assistant – John Abbott College, Quebec & Macdonald College of McGill University
- Resource Biologist – South Lake Simcoe Conservation Authority.
- Regional Swim Coach Advisor – Sport Ontario.
- Lake Surveyor – Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources
I love inspiring literature, honest ideas in philosophy, SCUBA, windsurfing, snowboarding, gardening, Kaitlin and Melissa.