Christian Parenting and Family Resources with Biblical Principles

What are Your Kids Reading?

  • Rebecca Hagelin The Heritage Foundation
  • Published Aug 19, 2005
What are Your Kids Reading?

Reading isn’t always good for our kids.

How’s that for an opening sentence to stir a little controversy among the educational elites?

We’ve been bombarded by so many messages about how reading expands the mind, excites the imagination and enhances the vocabulary (all of which are true) that many parents have forgotten that the benefit of reading for our children very much depends on what they’re reading. And, I’m afraid that many children spend hours reading what often turns out to be pure rot.

With school starting all over the country between last week and just after Labor Day, it’s time for a reading warning: Parents, beware.

In many cases the very liberal American Library Association exerts great influence over what reading materials teachers assign their students. But that material may be highly inappropriate for your child. Don’t let the following scenario unfold in your home:

Mrs. Jones hands out a book report assignment that includes several books for her class to choose from. Mom dutifully drives Suzi to the local library and browses while Suzi selects her book. Within half an hour, book in hand, everyone is feeling rather satisfied that they have been so responsible in starting on the project early. Mom and Suzi arrive home, and while mom begins making dinner, the conscientious and responsible Suzi heads to her room and begins to consume what turns out to be highly sexualized, vulgar garbage, filled with four-letter words and enough verbal porn to embarrass even an ole’ salt.

Mom doesn’t have a clue that her daughter’s innocence has just been molested in the privacy of her own bedroom. She won’t ever know because Suzi, a bit stymied by the fact that Mom took her to get a book that her teacher assigned, will be too embarrassed and confused to ever tell. Yet, she’s just had sexuality, relationships and acceptable behavior defined for her by some perverted author most folks have never heard of. And the kid was simply trying to get her homework done.

While researching my book, Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad, I took an ALA-recommended reading list for 13- and 14-year-olds to my local library and headed to the "Young Adult" section (code for "pre-teen" and "teen"). I found some books from the list; others were already checked out. One book, the librarian told me, had just been returned but hadn’t been re-shelved, so I patiently waited while she went into the back room to retrieve it.

With several items in hand, I headed back to the Young Adult section, where I couldn’t help but notice pre-teen and teen girls and guys in various stages of development and maturity, dutifully searching the shelves for assigned books. I sat down on a reading bench and began flipping through the pages of the book that had just been returned.

There’s something very moving about holding a book in your hand that a child has just finished reading. But the warmth in my heart soon turned into a sickening feeling in my gut when I began to read passages so cheap and trashy that I could scarcely believe my eyes. I only had to get to page four before the first of many uses of the term "mother------" showed up. Several scenes described, in graphic detail, sexual acts between teenagers.

In the interest of decency, there’s no way I can give you word-for-word examples. And I refuse to give the trashy book and its loser author free publicity in a column that often gets forwarded around the World Wide Web. I’d rather parents and other adults who care about our children and their education -- and whether or educational elites indoctrinate them in immorality -- actually go to their local library and research the reading lists themselves.

Lest you think the first book was put on the list in error, the next recommended teen item I thumbed through was equally as nauseating. A sexual act between fourth-graders was a "highlight," as well as graphic details of sex between teens, including a homosexual encounter. And this is the garbage that today’s educators pass off as great literature for our children? The great classics, meanwhile, are all but missing. One list I reviewed for eighth-graders contained about 20 authors -- none recognizable save the lone great Mark Twain. And they call this education?

The lesson here is simple. Moms and Dads, don’t just naively drive your kids to the library -- you must be careful to help them choose books that reflect your values. Even if your kids are in private school, you’re hardly safe -- many of the best schools blindly use ALA lists. Of course, if you home school your kids, you’re probably already aware of the moral problems of many ALA decisions, but even if you’re using a good curriculum guide, it’s always best to preview the books first.

The ALA is quick to call anyone who questions its decisions a "censor." But remember, part of our responsibility and privilege as parents is to be the ones who determine what is and is not appropriate for our own children.

© 1995 - 2005 The Heritage Foundation. All Rights Reserved.
Rebecca Hagelin is Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Heritage Foundation.

First appeared on World Net Daily.