Still shaping young lives

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At age 92, Wilbur Edwards has all sorts of stories to tell. 

He's sold encyclopedias, run a radio station, owned a business in Crystal Lake and retired twice. He's the father of three, grandfather of 6 and great-grandfather of 12.

But it's not his life story that he's telling. 

He's telling stories through a Web site he created a couple years ago to build morals and values in children. 

I asked Edwards if he thought values were lacking in today's children.

"I don't know that they're lacking, but they're not there," he answered.

His site, www.myyoungchild.org, is filled with online stories parents can read with their children.

Each story teaches a life lesson. With titles such as, "Corey Learns About Honesty the Hard Way" or "Gilbert the Goat Learns Respect," the online books are followed by discussion questions and activities for children and their parents to do together.

Parents also can watch a video about the rewards of parenting.

Among a sea of parenting web sites, Edwards' creation is making a name for itself internationally. And a lot of that has to do with the man behind it.

I called the non-profit Early Parenting Foundation he created to fund the site in the hopes of finding out more about it.

After a few rings, a rough voice simply answered, "Hello."

Edwards spoke from his Barrington home about his decision to create the site. 

"With all the corruption, fraud and lying going on these days, I wanted to give parents something they could work on with their children that would show them there's a better way of life," he said.

He had sold Magna Systems in Crystal Lake, a business that develops training videos and DVDs for child development professionals.

It was his second attempt at retirement. He retired in the 1970s as chairman of Compton's Encyclopedia, a junior encyclopedia that Britannica acquired. 

That first retirement lasted about six months.

"I got restless," he remembered.

That's when he started Magna Systems.

After he sold the company, he grew restless again. During a phone call with Nancy Battista Morgan, an author he had worked with at Magna, he suggested the web site. 

"It's not a commercial venture," he told her. "It's a do-good kind of thing."

With the help of her and others in the field, myyoungchild.org was born. The site has grown over the years, receiving about 95,000 hits in March from 25 different countries.

Edwards hopes to reach even more parents and educators, gearing his site toward children ages 3 to 7.

"My experience with children is that very early in life they decide what kind of person they want to be," he said.

A Plato quote from the site's video pretty much sums up his mission: "Let parents bequeath to their children no riches, but the spirit of reverence."

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