Content - Describe your screening of library books (non-MFW)

My Father's World uses a Book Basket method to develop a love of learning and enrich all subjects; Independent Reading Time has different goals and methods but there is overlap in book lists and helpful hints
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Yodergoat
Posts: 243
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:14 pm

Content - Describe your screening of library books (non-MFW)

Unread post by Yodergoat »

Books w/ character issues... what to do?

I love the book list at the back of Adventures! I appreciate the author's thoroughness in selecting quality books and in warning against ones which might have issues. But I can't always find the suggested books, and my daughter loves to hear read-alouds. Sometimes I do a library search about the time period and bring home what I find, to pre-read it for suitability. I don't mean for the scheduled read-aloud in the TM, but just during the evenings or whenever to help us learn more about the time period.

I have been having a hard time finding books which do not contain some sort of character issue, especially when they are written from a child's perspective. I am talking about concerns such as disobedience, lying, complaining, hating, belittling, disrespect for authority, etc. Oh, and also many of these stories imply that the parents/adults are inept and the child must rush in to "save the day." With the exception of the latter, these issues seem to be peppered in for flavor and humor and not for any real plot. The child disobeys. Then the child lies to cover it up. The parents do not find out. The child is relieved that he or she has gotten away with it, but does not have a battle of conscience. There is no consequence to the disobedience or lying... or worse, the disobedience is later looked at in a good light! Or it is eventually discovered but not dealt with in a proper way or is excused. It seems to be a recurring theme. :~

I have, in that past, taken what is overall a really great book and just edited out the few bad parts as I read. Example: in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I will replace words like "hate" with "doesn't like" or a section such as "The sermon was boring and Laura spent more time correcting the preacher's bad grammar than listening to his stupid ideas" to "The sermon was long and Laura was distracted." Since my daughter looks at Laura as sort of a hero figure, I don't want her to emulate such things, so I slightly alter it when reading aloud. But this is easy to do as there is little of concern in such books. When there is disobedience with CONSEQUENCES, even just internal ones such as guilt, I read the passage in its entirety. Sometimes we discuss. I'm fine when bad choices lead to consequences or issues of conscience and good discussion. ;) I don't want my daughter to think that no one else struggles with making right choices.

But also, I don't want her to identify strongly with characters who will reinforce the sin nature already in her and make her feel that such thoughts and actions are acceptable... even though they go against everything we are teaching her. I know that books are very powerful and influential. (See my own story at the bottom.)

We're doing Adventures right now and it seems there are MANY books written from the perspective of children during the time periods we are studying! I was really pleased with the armload of books I brought home from the library, hoping to read some of them aloud.

But alas! So many of them are just full of character issues. I had read the warning in the TM about a certain series written in a diary-style format... but hoped that the similar series for younger readers might be good to read aloud. Yet the ones I have pre-read just have so many concerns! I wanted to read one about Jamestown aloud... I pre-read it and used post-it notes to mark problematic passages, so I could skip them. Many of these were just examples of mean thoughts, such as "I think Henry looks like a fat pig." or "I think the rules are stupid." or "I hate that girl." or "I don't care if he is killed by Indians." Pointless, mean remarks, and MANY of them. There were so many of them that I realized I couldn't just skip them... the book could not be used. Thankfully, it wasn't that well-written anyway. It sounded exactly like an adult trying to impersonate a child! Well, the TM had warned me, and was right!

Why is children's literature like this? Is this a new trend? Are there any books to be found in which children love and honor their parents, respect godly authority, accept consequences of disobedience, and don't always become the HEROES of the story because the adults are inept? I know there is the "Keepers of the Faith" website which addresses such issues... much like the MFW booklist. But I despair of ever finding them at my libraries and can't afford to buy all of our books. I feel stuck with what's available at the library. Sigh.

How do others handle things like this for read alouds with questionable content?

Do you skip the book?

Read the book with editing?

Read the book as is and discuss?

Or am I just being a great big stick in the mud who needs to accept that children really do think this way and I should get used to it even if it means that by reading such things my daughter will think it is acceptable in our household?
(I don't think that is the answer, just wanted to throw it out there for the sake of argument!)

My own story as it relates to books: I was an early reader (age 4) and a fast reader (I could read a 400 page novel in 2 or 3 days at age 8 or so). I absolutely devoured books on any topic. Consequently, I read many books as a child which had a very negative impact on me.... helping to instill bad heart attitudes, false beliefs about God (before I knew Him as Savior), how I should relate to my parents, what my role should be as a woman, purity and more.. Most of these were adult books, not children's books... so I dealt with many adult issues long before I should even have been thinking of them. My parents were moral people but did not even look at my reading choices or movie choices. I was left to sort these hefty issues out as I grew by what I read in BOOKS. I know how influential they can be... in my case, for ill gain and much loss. :(

My daughter does not yet read books of any length on her own... and I intend to select her books for her so she won't suffer the way I did. For now, that means read-alouds. So, the question remains... how do I handle attitudes and issues which do not agree with our family's standards?

Thanks!
I'm Shawna...
... a forgiven child of God since 1994 (age 16)
... happily wed to William since 1996
... mother of our long-awaited Gail (3/15/2006)
... missing 6 little ones (4 miscarriages, 2 ectopics)
... starting Rome to the Reformation this fall!
TriciaMR
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Re: Books w/ character issues... what to do?

Unread post by TriciaMR »

Shawna,

That is a big challenge...

Random thoughts...

1. I don't have time to pre-read my kids' library books anymore. So, we talk about it. We talked about issues that might come up (rebellion, child saves the day - I will say, my kids have on occasion "saved the day", not in a dramatic sense, but they found the missing item or saw where the gear was jammed, etc, thoughts, attitude). I tell my kids they can read the books, but if they start acting that way, there will be consequences whether or not Laura had consequences for doing the same thing. Or, they can choose not to continue in the book. My daughter many times has brought a book back to me 1/4 to 1/3 read and said, "Mom, the kids lie and get away with it." So has one of my sons. And we talk about how parents are usually wiser than children (though David, in one of the Psalms did say he was wiser than all his mentors). And also about whether some of the stuff is realistic.

2. Pray for your kids, that God's influence will be stronger than the books. (And I think it will be.)

3. The Bible has a lot of characters with bad character. Some of them face consequences. But then I'll be reading through Kings or Chronicles and it will say, "King so-and-so did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He reigned for 52 year and slept with his fathers." And I think, "But God, why didn't you punish King so-and-so? He was so evil?" And you read on that it is part of God's plan to drive Judah into exile or some such. So, not even every bad person in the Bible faces bad consequences (in *this* life anyway).

4. Can you suggest books to your library? Vision Forum has a bunch of good books. Perhaps you could suggest a few from them, and then try to convince other Christian families to check them out. They might buy more that way.

I don't know an answer. I know many families struggle with the same thing. I did for a while, but I just can't preview every single book for content. But, my kids know they can come to me with questions, that I will discuss things with them, and not get on their case for reading a book that isn't the best. And like you said, even good books have some problems. Only the Bible is perfect...
Trish - Wife to Phil, Mom to Toni(18), Charlie(14), and Trent(14)
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Mom2theteam
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Re: Books w/ character issues... what to do?

Unread post by Mom2theteam »

I'm going to try to answer, but it's a tough one, an issue of personal beliefs and convictions and one of how we raise our children.

I'm shocked at many of the things I find in children's books, both new and old, but on the flip side, I'm not shocked at all. We live in a fallen world and most of our culture is not trying to follow God's word or honor Him. It is the nature of the world. So, I think that would be the why and no, I do not think it is a new trend at all. I see often see the most shocking things in books considered classics...things by Roahl Dahl come to mind and some of the hateful talk by the mother in the Little House books which you mentioned. It's very hard to get around this.

As to how I handle it, I don't have time to pre-read everything. I have 6 littles. ;) There are sites that review books. And I do skim portions of a book if I can before I start it. For longer books like the Little House books, I'll look them up and try to find out some info about them before I start. Honestly though, I don't even have time to do that much of the time because we get a LOT of books and I have 6 little kids. LOL! If it looks like it has a lot of issues or is focused around a child's negative actions or disrespect or whatever, I put it back. Others that seem to have some redeeming value that I deem worth it, I go ahead and read.

As I'm reading, if I come across something that I definitely need to change, I will edit as I go. I really only do that for words that I find inappropriate. I'm not great at rewriting the content on the fly. I'm definitely not afraid to put a book down in the middle and tell my children we aren't going to finish it because it isn't appropriate or the characters are acting mean or whatever. Many times, I read it as written and we use it as an opportunity to talk about why it's inappropriate and why we would not handle the situation in that way. We talk about authors and characters not following Biblical principles and not pleasing God. My kids seem to understand that.

I feel like I can't avoid these issues, especially as the children get older. If I try to cut out all these things, there would be very little we could read. So, I use these as an opportunity to teach them to discern these things for themselves by asking leading questions and having honest discussions about it...age appropriately, we don't just run off and read anything and everything we find assuming we can just discuss and it will all be good. I use common sense and filter things through my Biblical focus, but you get the idea.

At some point, we do have to trust that the Biblical truths we are teaching our children are going to have more impact on them than the books we read. I'm not naive enough to think books (and other media) don't affect, as your example of yourself shows, but I also don't think we can completely shield 100% of the time either. I think this is an instance in which to insulate rather than isolate. Control the amount of content and actual content that we find inappropriate, but allow them to be exposed to some things (age appropriately) in your presence so you can help them understand and process it through your family's Bible and Christ-centered worldview.

A short comment about your experience, it seems as you were given 100% freedom in reading which was not appropriate. Realize that your experience was one extreme and there is the other extreme also. You need to work to find that healthy middle ground. Gail is only 7. So, no matter her reading level, it is still very appropriate to moderate what she reads and what you read to her. We are both lucky not to have an issue where our child can read anything and everything if they were allowed to. But, Zack does read on his own...a lot...he reads many, many easy readers. I do look at them first and we often talk about them after. Allowing him the freedom to choose (within limits ;)) is what has lead to his love for reading and really helped him advance and move forward in his reading. I do encourage you strive to find a balance between the two extremes as extremes (in either direction) are not usually the most healthy way to go.

Lastly, I would encourage you to spend much time in prayer about this issue and what God would have you do in these situations. He will lead you in the right direction on this. Talk with your husband and his thoughts. He may have some wonderful insight. I commend you for being so intentional and thoughtful about what your daughter is exposed to. It is important to protect what our children are exposed to. Good for you! Keep up the wonderful mothering. :D
Heather
Wife to an amazing man
Mom to 6, ages 10, 7, 7, 5, 5, 3
Zack, 10 CtG
Samantha & Blake, twins, 7, CtG
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gratitude
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Re: Books w/ character issues... what to do?

Unread post by gratitude »

I had trouble finding the ADV book basket list at the library too. A few of them though I did find on other home school sights. I also don't have the time to pre-read that I wish I had with 4 young children and a youngest that has special needs. So I had to find a solution for my avid reader who wants to read good books and will be influenced by them.

I find that I can not trust all of Heart of Dakota books, but I have found I can trust most of them and used many of her selections for American History from her Bigger extension for ADV book basket. Her DITHR books too have been good choices for both readers and read aloud books. I have only read one aloud that I had to discuss some for character issues and liberal leanings that were extremely subtle.

Marie's list led me to Beautiful Feet books and I have found them to be a good edition to ADV book basket that taught my oldest a lot of American History.

Lamplighter books, that I have mostly read aloud, have some very solid character lessons in them. They tend to praise and teach Godly character while pointing out reasons to not make choices that take us away from God. The biggest problem with them is their expense. I find if I buy one at a time though I can usually find $20 for a good solid book with Godly character inside.

Pathway Readers that Rod and Staff sells that are used in Amish one room school houses are excellent for Godly character examples. My oldest has read all of them over and over again and loves them.

This is an issue. I think some of the poor examples show the fallen state of humanity and are worth discussing. I think the good examples are necessary to show how God's redemption has been lived out by sinful human beings who made good choices. We have had some excellent character discussions from Lamplighter books that can show poor characters engaged in sin who are redeemed by Christ and whose choices improve drastically as a result. HOD and Beautiful Feet helped make a thorough ADV book basket for continued history learning.

Blessings,
Carin
Mom2theteam
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Re: Books w/ character issues... what to do?

Unread post by Mom2theteam »

Great resources, Carin! I've been using some of these also...like the Beautiful Feet and I've looked at the HOD list. I just got all the A Beka 2nd grade readers because I know I can trust A Beka. I'm going to look into the Pathway readers too...I've heard about them many times.

Carin reminds me of another point too. Which is that even though I do read things with content that I don't agree with (disobedience and such), I make sure to include books and stories that do show good character and I point that out also. I recently bought one of the Miller books...I can't remember which one...and we plan to start reading that. Definitely find those gems with good character displayed.

I liked Tricia's comments about Biblical characters not always being straight laced and not always reaping what they sow in this life. Recently in Adv, we read the verses about Jesus in the OT, specifically in Genesis where God tells the serpent that the Son of Man will crush his head and the serpent will bruise his heal. My oldest is very sensitive and he was really bothered by it until I explained what it meant. He still didn't like the wording of it, but he understood it and agree that it was actually a good thing. Throughout MFW 1st, Zack has definitely asked me probing questions about character also. I'm glad he asks and is thinking deeply. :-) Point is even when we read the Bible, we have to have these appropriate discussions too.
Heather
Wife to an amazing man
Mom to 6, ages 10, 7, 7, 5, 5, 3
Zack, 10 CtG
Samantha & Blake, twins, 7, CtG
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gratitude
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Re: Books w/ character issues... what to do?

Unread post by gratitude »

Mom2theteam wrote:Point is even when we read the Bible, we have to have these appropriate discussions too.
Great Point! The Bible definitely has examples of life with & without sin.

I thought of King David & Noah just off the ark after I posted too. King David was a man after Gods own heart yet also has examples in his life of choices I really don't want my boys making in their lives. It is part of David's humanity. These examples can show our children the weaknesses of our humanness & open discussions for good choices we hope they will make in age appropriate ways ( some discussions clearly needing to wait).

We have enjoyed the Miller books too and done them with dad. My kids love them.

The Bible though for sure introduces a lot of character discussions & how God wants us to live & how great our need is for Jesus since all sin & fall short of the glory of God. The Bible also teaches us the character of God; of course.

Since humans fall short of pure morality I think other books too can point discussions again & again back to our need for God's Spirit & our need for His help since only Jesus gives the example of a life without sin.
Yodergoat
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Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:14 pm

Re: Books w/ character issues... what to do?

Unread post by Yodergoat »

Thanks for all the thoughtful and wise responses! I appreciate the time taken to respond, the book suggestions, and of course the reminder to pray about this issue!

I will look into some of the suggestions, speak with my husband about this, and make our reading choices a matter of prayer.

Thanks again!
I'm Shawna...
... a forgiven child of God since 1994 (age 16)
... happily wed to William since 1996
... mother of our long-awaited Gail (3/15/2006)
... missing 6 little ones (4 miscarriages, 2 ectopics)
... starting Rome to the Reformation this fall!
Poohbee
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Re: Books w/ character issues... what to do?

Unread post by Poohbee »

Because we are human, and we all have flaws, books will contain those things, too. Our kids aren't perfect, and it would probably be discouraging for them to read about a perfect child. :-) As my kids have gotten older, I don't have time to pre-read all of the books they have the option of reading, so, as others have said, I have to trust God's leading in their lives, and I use undesirable quality traits in the characters of books as a springboard for discussion.

When we are reading a book as a read-aloud, I stop when I come to things that are questionable, and my daughters and I talk about what the appropriate behavior should have been or about the consequences the character faced because of poor decisions. I use books to point out the goodness of God in a fallen world. Books can be such a great source for discussing such things.

I like to give my kids choices in what they read...within reason. As another mom mentioned, my kids enjoy reading much more when they have some choices. I use resources I trust for book lists, and I compare the book lists I find in a number of resources, to help me make my final choices for my kids to choose from. For example, I use Marie's list in the back of the TM, the book Honey for a Child's Heart, and other resources about books that are written by Christians, such as Read for the Heart, by Sarah Clarkson, The Book Tree, by Elizabeth McCallum, and Hand that Rocks the Cradle: 400 Classic Books for Children, by Nathaniel Bluedorn. I sometimes even use The Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease, although that one is not necessarily from a Christian perspective. I look at the books these resources recommend, and when a book appears on several of those lists, I figure it must be a good one.

This year for reading time, I did my research, as I mentioned above, and then compiled a list of books that I will allow my dds to choose from for their reading time. I haven't read all of the books on the list, but because I trust my resources I used, and because the books I've chosen appear in several of those resources, I trust that they will be okay for my kids to read.

Yes, there will probably be character issues in those books, but before they read, I ask my girls to be aware of things in the book that we don't approve of in our family, and to come and talk to me about any issues they do not like are are unsure of.

Just wanted to give you some suggestions for resources about books that you can check out.
Jen
happily married to Vince (19 yrs)
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MuzzaBunny
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Re: Books w/ character issues... what to do?

Unread post by MuzzaBunny »

Hi Shawna,
We're very much where you are. Call me overprotective, but the character issues bother me. I don't want my daughter thinking that bad behavior is acceptable because a book heroine does it and all is well. And I especially don't like the portrayals where Mom and Dad need little Susie to show them how wrong they are and that she really does know what's best for herself. I have found an online library called The Family Vision that carries many of the books from Vision Forum and Keepers of the Faith, etc. They are pricey and we haven't sprung for the cost yet. ($75 for 6o books per year, taken out 10 at a time) So far, I'm just searching the lists to see if we can justify the cost. I wanted to let you know about it - and that you are not alone.
Bunny
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