Books

Recently,  I read my first Judy Blume book, ‘Tales of fourth grade nothing’ to review my son’s classroom read aloud.  I had thumped through it while at his desk and decided I needed to read it and was glad I did.  I was not impressed by this work and find it as a poor choice for children’s literature.  Below are my concerns with this particular book.

No moral

There wasn’t any clear moral to the story and despite ample opportunity, the main character didn’t improve or really even change from the beginning to the end.

Poor Portrayal of Family

Multiple times Peter wishes his brother wasn’t born and it is the overall theme of the book (It never acknowledges that it’s wrong to feel that way.  We should be helping our kids see that their siblings are gifts from God)

The book starts with assuming that others may think that his mother is his biggest problem.  Although it says she’s not, just the suggestion bothers me. It goes on to affirm that his brother is his biggest problem. I don’t even want to suggest to my children that parents/siblings could ever be a ‘Problem’.

General Lack of Respect & Lack of Thought

Peter often uses unkind words, like “Shut up!”.  This is something I won’t allow my kids to say to each other.

“She’s such a pain” one of the kids says about their siblings.

At one point, Peter runs upstairs, slams his door and throws his shoe at the wall.  The parent never even mentions that is bad behavior.

The parent dumps cereal on the child’s head as a form of punishment?  It’s funny; but not sure it’s teaching anything.

Portrayal of Drugs/Medicines

pg 30. “Because a lot of dope-pushers hang around here.  But taking dope is even dumber than smoking, so nobody’s going to hook me.”  Here, I don’t like the new vocabulary introduced.

pg 54, chapter 5 ends with, “my mother flopped down in a chair. Grandma brought her two aspirins and a glass of water. “Here dear,” she said, “Maybe these will help.” My mother swallowed the pills.” I don’t like that without being sick, she’s offered pills and popping pills because of tough day she had with the child.

 

 

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Judy Blume is not an author we should teach the children to trust

Recently, my daughter brought home a Judy Blume book from school that her class was reading.  I was cautious about it because I had just had my son bring home another Judy Blume book that I reviewed only days before and found as not a good choice of a book for children.  My main concern with her books is that Blume’s approach to human love and sexuality is very immoral and contrary to christian belief.  Below I detail some of the concerns with this particular book after reading it.

Poor potrayal of siblings

Siblings are never kind and loving to one another.

Poor formation for Puberty & Love

Her sister Libby is portrayed as a boy crazy girl who is very self-centered.  In pages 38, 39, 48,49, Libby is wearing her bikini to attract attention, wants to get swim lessons because the teacher looks good, has a crush on the lifeguard, who her mother says is much too old for her.

Libby also has a poor self-image. pg 88. “I am so ugly it’s unbelievable!” “And just wait until you’re thirteen.  You’ll be as ugly as me if not uglier! Oh…I could just cry!”

pg 118, During their stay in vacation Tarrytown, her sister is “in love for a change.” “She sat right up close to Hank and we’re not sure but we think they kissed a couple of times.”

pg 79, A dog starts to come visit the girl dog only at night and makes lots of noises. Her sister tells her it’s a boy dog because, “I saw him make,” Libby said. The girl dog is pregnant in the next couple pages.

Lack of respect & Lack of Thought

 Shut up!, Stupid, calling someone ugly, and a pain. (ex: pg 7, 90 91)

chp 13.  The idea like making a slam book is very cruel (ex: pg 106) – It could easily introduce mock slam books and lead to bullying.

Lying is shown as normal part of growing up

Main character deals with insecurities by lying throughout the book about herself.

Lying to the parent to cover up with no corrections or consequences.

  • When Sheila breaks the model planes and is trying to fix them she lies to mom.
  • When she sat on toothpaste prank meant for her sister she again lies to mom.
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Although Judy Blume has become a popular children’s author, she is not an author we can trust our children with.  With her popularity, schools like ours are requiring the children to read her books.  In our school, children were introduced to Judy Blume book, “Tales of a fourth grade nothing” as an all class read together in third grade.  In fourth grade they delve deeper into Judy Blume by studying her book as class, “Judy Blume: otherwise known as Sheila the great.”  This is alarming, because once children like a book, they’ll continue to find more books by the same author.  Her books for younger audience like the above contain sibling rivalry, lying, problems with self-image, boy craziness, all of which are not directing our children towards the moral good.  In my further research, this is just the tip of the iceberg, her books for older children takes a turn for the worse with topics such as masturbation, premarital sex, bullying, all without resolve.

Children are vulnerable since they are at an impressionable age where they start to care about how they are perceived.   Hence, the damage caused by these books are even greater. Here are a few examples from some of her books with why our children shouldn’t read them in their formative years.

Deenie – In this book, Blume presents masturbation as a good feeling when you touch your special place.  The main character touches herself every night since it was the only way she could fall asleep.

Are you there, God? It’s me Margaret – the main character doesn’t find God after searching in religion. The book is an exploration of the main characters, puberty and sexuality.  Readers are introduced to playboy magazines and kissing games with boys in a manner one could say, intro to sexual promiscuity.

Blubber – Here she writes about an overweight girl being bullied and having her underwear exposed.  There are several profane and crude language introduced such as calling teacher Bi*ch.  Bullying is not punished.  No morals learned.

Forever – This book explores teen pre-marital teenage intercourse and birth control.  In Judy’s own words, “A book where two nice kids do it and nobody has to die.”  Book is popular in today’s culture because it teaches children that it’s ok to have sex as long as you go to planned parenthood for birth control pills and do it responsibly.  What about abstinence and waiting till you are married?  It is never mentioned.  Book contains a character peripheral to the story who is unsure of his sexual orientation and is suicidal.  Further detailed review can be found here: http://www.pluggedin.com/book-reviews/forever

Tiger Eyes  – detailed review can be found here: http://www.pluggedin.com/book-reviews/tiger-eyes/

Then Again, Maybe I won’t – This book explores male puberty.  Here the main character looks at girl next door undressing and masturbates.  Although he wonders at the end of book whether to stop but as title suggests, he decides, Then again, maybe I won’t.

Judy Blume is also an open supporter of the Planned Parenthood and she uses her books to promote her ideas.  On May 5, 2009, Judy wrote an open letter supporting Planned Parenthood, with the title cleverly headed “Are you there [Your Name Here]? It’s me, Judy,” referencing her book, “Are you There God? It’s Me Margaret”.  Contents of the email were to solicit donation funds for Planned Parenthood in honor of mother’s on Mother’s day.  Full email can be viewed here on catholic key: http://catholickey.blogspot.com/2009/05/judy-blume-honor-mom-by-supporting.html

When the secular world outside is bombarding our children with negative ideas of marriage, family and sexuality, let’s not buy into it by supporting authors like Judy Blume.  Instead let’s work together in our homes and schools to counter that with wholesome children’s books portraying families where sacrificial life giving love is nurtured.

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What is your child reading? 

Most parents want their children to be good readers.  But do you know what your children are reading?  Does it matter?  Very often, I hear from parents and teachers alike comments like this,

“As long as they are reading, I am happy!” 

It always makes me nervous when I hear it.  I am an avid reader and in my constant search for good reading material I often encounter books that should never be read by our children.  Secularism with it’s lack of respect for all that we hold true for good family life and love is reaching our children by the means of books.  And especially in a very scary way, through children’s books.  I am often baffled by the choices presented to young kids from toddler time at library to high school required reading lists.

Recently, in our catholic school, I’m finding books that are being promoted to our children with poor content.  Examples of such books include The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Big Nate series, Junie B Jones, and Judy Blume books.  These books portray negative family values, disrespect for parents/ teachers/authority in general and provide negative formation for puberty and love.

The truth is the “As long as they are reading, I am happy!” attitude is everywhere, hence very little vigilance on books by parents and teachers.

It matters what children read 

Once the ideas presented in books reach the young minds, the information has become irrevocable. In the case of poor concepts and world views, the damage is non-removable similar to looking at pornography.   This is especially true for their formative years, age 18 and under, when their imagination and moral compass are forming.

Books should be carefully chosen to orient the children towards the greater good.  You can’t simply choose a book because it is popular or has the most reviews on amazon anymore.  Greed and selfishness are king in the secular world and many authors don’t care about wholesome values. Popular books often focus on self and an it’s all about me attitude. Disrespectful language, negative feelings and thoughts of self and siblings, and the concept of a good “lie”.

One such example of this is the popular Judy Blume books.  I’ll be adding a detailed review on Judy Blume books here.

Children are like sponges.  They absorb everything from their environment.  If we give them good books, they absorb good. If we give them poor books, they absorb that too.

Ok I get it but there is so much junk out there!  What can we do?

First, we need to be more vigilant and aware of what our children are reading at home and in school.  Whenever possible, read together with the child so you can help them ponder and reason when you encounter negative ideas in books.   If you can’t read together, try to take a few minutes to scan the books that they’re bringing home to see if the attitudes and behaviors expressed in a few different sections of the book are aligning with the values you want to instill in your child.

If the books with poor content are being read at school where you are not present, do not be afraid to talk to the teachers.  Often teachers will allow you an opt out option.  Remember, it’s our job as parents to educate our children.  We entrust our schools and teachers to part of this responsibility.  When the information being presented no longer represents our interests and intentions, we need to speak up.

Talk to children about good authors that you trust.  It matters who wrote the book.  The worldview and moral compass of the authors often comes through in the books.

If the child knows which authors to trust, it also gives them something to search in libraries instead of judging by covers.

When choosing books from library get in the habit of putting preselected books on hold rather than letting children choose any book they want from shelves.

Also make good books available within their reach.  Create your own little library on bookshelves stocked with classics and good literature.  Choose books that help their imagination with good fertile ideas.  Invest time in seeking and finding good books for the children.  Make your own booklist of good finds.  This will make it easier to share and also acquire them.

How do we go about choosing good books? 

The easiest place to start is to find booklists that are created by trusted resources.  There are books with booklists and lists posted online on blogs and homeschool websites.  Take advice from friends you trust about good reading material.  Classics offer a great starting place because it’ll be easier to find out what they contain.  The longer a book has been around, more likely to find thorough reviews and summaries online.  Another reason to stick to older books is the finding of this study on modern books at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/study-finds-modern-word-choices-reflect-a-more-self-centered-culture/

Below I’ll provide a few of the booklists I’ve come across:

John Senior, a noted retired professor of Comparative Literature from the University of Kansas has put out a great list of thousand books.

Christian homeschooling websites are another great resource.  Here are few that I’ve found resourceful.

Catholic bloggers

Books with booklists

Final thought

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8

The mind can be likened to a garden and the time we spend thinking.  Do you want a garden full or weeds or a garden of beautiful flowers?

 

 

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