How to teach children character traits

51vkrH+D5uL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)Public school in America does a good job at teaching the basics: reading, writing, math, science, and other subjects.

Public schools are known to be a place where kids go to “socialize” with their friends.

However, public school typically don’t offer a course on friendship and interpersonal skills.

Kids with pro social character traits are generally more likeable. The kids poor social character traits are federally less likeable and more often rejected. They suffer more mental health problems too.

My book, Building Character with Sam and Izzy aims to bring social skills and character development to the classroom. The book has a mission to help kids to make more friends and to feel happier (most of the time). Being happy 100% of the time isn’t realistic.


My sister’s wild animals.

The book uses pictures of dogs (and some cats) to teach children how to make friends by improving their character traits. The book started when my sister’s two dogs Izzy (a Chihuahua) and Sam (an English Bulldog) became friends. What an unlikely friendship. I figured if these two (very different dogs) can be friends then any two kids could become friends too.

In fact, even the dog (and cat) can be friends. See the picture of my sister’s dog Sugar and the cat. I can’t recall that cat’s name.

My book isn’t therapy, but it uses a lot of recreational therapy interventions.

  • Bibliotherapy is a type of therapy based on reading books. My book could be used in recreational therapy.
  • Animal therapy is uses animals in the facilitation of needs. My book uses pictures of friendly animals
  • Activities are part of recreational therapy. My book includes access to download an instructor’s workbook with activity ideas: like making a compromise to select a game, volunteering and helping; being a team-member; and a good sport.

Here is the summary of the book:

Danny Pettry is a Recreational Therapist who specializes in working with children (ages 7 to 12) who have mental and behavioral health needs.
Now he has put together an astonishing children’s book to help ALL children have better social health and wellness.
Danny Pettry’s book teaches character lessons to children using colorful pictures of animals. This book is a valuable tool for teachers, group leaders, therapists and parents alike.
This book covers social skills and character values like:
Accepting others
Having good sportsmanship
Being respectful, generous, helpful, empathetic, and more.
This book helps children learn how to make friends and get along with others.
You’d like for your child or a child you know to develop and improve these skills, wouldn’t you?
You like pictures of cute animals don’t you?
All right then.
Just read the book to your child.


I’ve been featured in the media a few times with this book.

  • I did an interview for National Public Radio (but they’ve taken down the recording – I guess because it has been so many years).
  • Parenting Magazine featured the book
  • Several newspapers


Seal of Approval Winner by The National Parenting Center
Testers were delighted to discover this storybook that teaches children important lessons about tolerance, empathy, sharing, compassion and much more. Pettry uses adorable dogs and puppies to illustrate these good character traits. Parents noted how well the book was written. The style easily connected with children and was fun for parents to read. What many parents told us was that this book sparked conversations about various behaviors including how humans and dogs share many similarities when it comes to caring for each other.

5-Star Rating from Reader’s Favorites

5-Star Rating from Reviewers on Amazon!

Get the book here:


Personal Experiencecanstockphoto26598298

I wasn’t the smartest kid in my class. I didn’t have a 4.0 in public school or undergraduate school. I did finally get a 4.0 in graduate school. I had an A in almost every course. I did get a B in Ethics. I know – that doesn’t sound good, does it?

However, I did win the class of 1992 Good Citizenship Award at my Elementary School.

I’d argue that a child’s social health (interpersonal skills) and ability to deal with emotions (affect regulation skills) might be more of an indicate of success in life compared to just having high grade point average.


Canine Therapy –

CANINE THERAPY corps presented at the “Welcome to ATRA’s 2016 annual conference,” during the opening general session.

They are a program of dedicated volunteers in the Chicago area who use certified therapy dogs to help people with rehabilitation therapy.

It was so awesome seeing all of those dogs. However, my camera battery started to go out during this time and I didn’t get many good pictures like I wanted to.

Callie Cozzolino talked about the dogs and what they can do to help people.

She said: “the possibilities are endless.”

Some of the physical rehabilitation benefits include:

Strength activities, fine motor skills, range of motion activities, and activities of daily living.

Dogs can be used for rehab needs, including: sitting, balance, flexibility, and turning.

There were activities where the individual (in need) role-played by students from Grand Valley State University (Michigan). One activity consisted of raising legs so they dog jumps over them or goes under. It is a fun way to play with dog, while building strength in legs.

Of course, there was a lot of laughter too with the dogs.

She also discussed the cognitive component and social component as well.

I [Danny Pettry] recall reading that people with animal therapy dogs are approached socially more often than those who don’t have one. – so there is a big increase in social connectedness.

Here are some pictures: