Why Character Education Through Narnia?

The bestselling Narnia novels for young readers have sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages, and recent blockbuster movies of several of the novels have been very popular. In 2015, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was included in Time magazine’s 100 best young adults’ book list, as polled by the National Centre for Illustrated Literature, the Young Readers Centre at the Library of Congress, and Every Child a Reader Foundation.

Some character education curricula focus on adults who have demonstrated good character; many of them are even world-famous leaders. The Narnian Virtues curriculum is different in that the focus is not on adults of exceptional character, but on young people themselves who are developing good character. The young people who are reading the novels are reading about other young people who rise to challenges and difficulties and develop a range of virtues. We see Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy developing good character and we witness their failures as well as their successes. The Pevensies also get older from one year to the next. In fact, Prince Caspian takes place one year after they returned from Narnia in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

In the UK, when the Book Trust presented the best 100 books for children up to 14 years of age (split into four age categories), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was selected as one of the best books for 11-year-olds.

The activities in the Narnian Virtues Character Education Curriculum have been designed to enable parents/guardians, children and teachers to focus on six virtues—love, wisdom, justice, integrity, fortitude, and self-control—that are central to good character.

The land of Narnia is a world which young readers can still enter. In that world, the Pevensie children develop a range of virtues needed for good character. The Narnia novels depict virtuous actions that are admirable and have beneficial consequences, but also actions that are not virtuous and, in one way or another, have negative consequences.

In our research on the Narnian Virtues curriculum (Pike, Lickona and Nesfield, 2016), we have found that the Narnia novels have the capacity to motivate a wide range of readers to make efforts to develop the will as well as the skill needed for good character.

The Narnia novels depict virtues for everyone (Miller, 2008). The moral universe of Narnia is consistent with the educational and ethical philosophy that Lewis (1978/1943) sets out in The Abolition of Man. For more on this philosophy, see Chapter 1, ‘Character Education: Learning for Life’ in Mark Pike’s Mere Education: C.S. Lewis as Teacher for our Time.