Book Characters As Role Models

Valerie Donati

How important are books for helping our children learn about themselves and the world around us? As a writer I am biased, but I think book characters can be powerful influences for good. When I was young one of my favorite all-time books was The Lord of The Rings. I was drawn into that misty, magical land filled with the forces of dark and light, each wanting to claim the world as its own, though for vastly different purposes.  

Frodo was my hero. Yes, he yearned for adventure (so did I!), but when it came knocking at his door it was far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Thrown into worldwide events that might claim his little land - and his life, he soldiered on, doggedly believing that if everything fell to pieces at least he would have done his part, giving his all, even to a lost cause. 

This was a character I could believe in. He wasn’t perfect. He had flaws and fears aplenty, but he was brave, in the right sort of way. It wasn’t his ego that was driving him, it was his compassion for the simple free folk, and a sense of duty and honor. In some of my darker moments in life, I have literally thought about Frodo in the land of Mordor, looking up to see a single star in the night sky, and in that moment recognizing that evil has its limits.

So, yes, I believe that characters in books can present powerfully positive role models for all of us, and particularly our younger generation. Just think about Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. She may have been a badass, but she was kind hearted and thoughtful. She didn’t want to leave anyone behind. Or Beatrice Prior in Divergent. She had to turn her back on all that she knew to follow her inner leading, and by being true to herself, she was able to help others. Or Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. He went against social norms to fight for what he knew to be right, no matter what the consequences. Growing up without a dad, I wished I’d had a father like him.

I believe in books, in stories to be a compelling force for good. Encourage your children to read. The characters they meet might change their life.