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Corduroy

By Don Freeman

Summary

Corduroy is a story about a teddy bear that waits every day for someone to come into the department store and take him home. One day a little girl named Lisa wants to buy him, but her mother points out that he is missing one of the buttons on his overalls. That night he decides to explore the department store in search of a button. He doesn't find a button, but the next day he finds friendship and a home.

Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion

By Kristy Grahn

Corduroy is a classic children’s story that raises questions about broad and important issues that we encounter on a day to day basis: materialism, friendship, and belonging. The bear Corduroy encounters the same struggles that each one of us face throughout our lives. Most people wish to acquire material items, friends and a sense of belonging. It is for this very reason why this simple and popular storybook teaches children valuable lessons that can be used in their lives from a young age.

Children typically want the coolest toy, the prettiest dress, or the most money in their piggy bank. Material consumption is a characteristic of many North Americans. Do we actually need material things to be happy? From a young age, the word "want" becomes central to our vocabulary. In other developing countries this desire to own material possessions is not as prominent. As we enter adulthood, many people want the the biggest house, the most fashionable clothing and accessories, and the nicest car. Does society push us to feel that we need these objects to be happy and live a fulfilling life? Are those that do not desire to have unneccesary material things less happy or less fulfilled? Corduroy serves a classic example of the materialism that is engrained in our society. Although children do not need toys to survive, they still desire them and go out of their way to acquire these objects throughout their lives.

Friendship is a component of life that many consider to be necessary in order to fulfill happiness. From the beginning of our lives, we interact with others and create long lasting connections with people and sometimes even things. In most cases, a need of companionship and a vivid imagination are the two main ingredients in the friendship between a person and an inanimate object. Even though the object is not alive, it can still provide comfort and make one feel safe if that person trusts in the object enough. Corduroy provides the little girl Lisa with this kind of friendship in the story even though he is not alive. Do children prefer to have imaginary friends over alternative friends? The story teaches children that friendship goes beyond its conventional form and that people can find comfort and love in even objects such as teddy bears.

Belonging, also known as the desire to be an accepted member of a group, is a feeling that every person experiences throughout their lives. Corduroy not only wants to belong to home, but also a friend. This symbolizes our humanistic need to belong to something, whether it is to a home, friends, family, sports team, or work place. Why do humans feel the need to belong to something? Often when we belong to something, we get a feeling of acceptance and wholeness. Corduroy addresses basic questions that most people pass through life without even wondering about even though it is so central to whom we are and why we do the things we do.

Overall, Corduroy presents many opportunities to discuss important issues that we can relate to every day of our lives. It brings up numerous questions and can create discussion that children can easily relate to since they encounter the need to acquire material things, friends, and a sense of belonging from a very young age. From reading the story and asking philosophical questions, Corduroy can teach children valuable life lessons while providing entertainment.

Questions for Philosophical Discussion

Materialism

"Oh, Mommy!" she said. "Look! There's the very bear I've always wanted."

  1. When is it okay to want material things?
  2. Why does the little girl want the teddy bear?
  3. Why does the little girl's mother want the bear to be in perfect condition?
  4. If someone has the coolest toys and the nicest clothing, how will they feel?
  5. If people do not always want the most material possessions, are they unhappy? Why?
  6. Do you think that we only want material things because other people want them too or have them already?
  7. Throughout our lives we constantly desire to have more material possessions. Is this phenomenon common throughout the world or just in North America?

Friendship

“You must be a friend,” said Corduroy. “I’ve always wanted a friend.” “Me too!” said Lisa, and gave him a big hug.

  1. What are the necessary components of a friendship?
  2. What kinds of things do friends do for each other?
  3. Do you think the bear does those things for the little girl?
  4. When is it okay for people to be friends with inanimate objects?
  5. Does the little girl want to be friends with the teddy bear instead of another little girl or boy?
  6. Have you ever had an imaginary friend or been friends with something that was not alive?
  7. Even though the bear is not alive, do you think it can still be a friend to the little girl? Why?

Belonging

“This must be home,” he said. “I know I’ve always wanted a home!”

  1. What does it mean to belong?
  2. What is the definition of home?
  3. What does coming home feel like to you?
  4. Is the desire to belong central to human emotions? If so, why?
  5. If the bear is not alive, then why does it want to belong to a home?
  6. Have you ever had the feeling of wanting to belong to something or someone? What did it feel like?
  7. At what points in our lives do we feel like we belong to someone or something the most?

This book module deals with ethics, specifically friendship. You can buy this book on Amazon.

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