No matter the school, chances are high that your kids will come across Scholastic books. But are Scholastic books really safe for kids?
from contributing writer Tanya Clifton
The school year is now in full swing all around the country. Whether you homeschool or send your students to public or private facilities, reading is inevitable. Sometimes books are assigned; other times students are required to choose their own free reading. Trying to make sure the content of what their minds are soaking in is not the simplest of tasks for a parent, but it is possible.
Scholastic Book Clubs find their way into most schools around the country. According to the website for these clubs, the main goal is to “Nurture a Community of Readers.” That sounds like a wonderful idea, doesn’t it? But who is deciding what books to promote to our students? What criteria is being used to determine a “good read?” I think we can all agree that the Chronicles of Narnia, The Boxcar Children, The Little House series, and titles such as Esperanza Rising, Island of The Blue Dolphins, Sounder, and anything by Roald Dahl is not only safe but pretty great content and good writing for our kids to be soaking in.
Then you have the ever-popular Harry Potter and Percy Jackson novels that are always at the top of reading lists but don’t always receive the unanimous accolades from parents due to topics that include sorcery and Greek mythology. Do you know anything about the Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland? Counter Culture Mom has recently received an email from a parent concerned that it is full of graphic violence and dark magic. She has also written in the past about her concerns about witchcraft and sorcery being promoted by Scholastic. Bottom line, be very diligent on what your kids purchase and read from Scholastic, it is NOT what it was like when we were kids.
What Do Some Scholastic Books Entail?
Do these novels contain dark magic? Well, dark (black) magic as defined by Merriam-Webster is “magic that is associated with the devil or with evil spirits.” I don’t see that in these books. I do see some supernatural powers (reading of minds) by a few of the characters, but if supernatural powers are dangerous qualities to watch out for, then any movie or book containing superheroes would be out of the question. I’m not convinced that supernatural power alone is enough to deem it dark magic. Is there violence? Absolutely. That cannot be denied. Is it graphic? I do think that yanking teeth out one by one and having claws stabbed into another dragon’s underbelly with clouds of blood filling the water with a red haze (as paraphrased from Chapter 14 of The Lost Heir) would be described as graphic for sure. But the books are about war – dragons at war. It is complete fantasy. Should that bother Christian parents? Maybe.
Maturity of the Reader Is Important
Would I allow my pre-teen to read these books? Likely not. But as teenagers become more grounded in the Christian worldview, I don’t know that reading a fantasy book about dragons at war is all that dangerous. My sixteen year old really enjoyed the series, and her faith wasn’t the least bit ruffled as a result. That may not be the case for every young reader, however. And even if we decide not to allow our children to read Wings of Fire, Harry Potter (I personally have not allowed that in our home), or Percy Jackson, does thatmean that we should shun all titles because the company advertises a few potentially objectionable books on their website and in their catalogs?
When I Googled Scholastic’s website, Wings of Fire wasn’t even listed until page seven (of thirty-eight pages) of suggested titles for kids ages eight to twelve. What I did find on the first few pages were some amazing books with great messages and noteworthy examples of great writing. So if a company like Scholastic does have some titles that we find offensive to our faith or inappropriate for our student to read, and we don’t have the time to read every potential title our student shows interest in, how are we to know if what he is reading (or plans to read) aligns with our family values and is “safe” for him to be consuming?
Suggestions for discerning content of books your students are reading:
- Visit websites such as Plugged In to see if there is a review of the book your student is considering. Read the review together and ask your student if he thinks it has anything in it that may contradict your family’s values. Here is a direct link to the first book in the Wings of Fire series.
Another website worth checking out that includes reader reviews is Common Sense Media. Simply type in the title of the book or series you are curious about and read what other parents and students have to say about the content. (By the way, this website also has reviews on movies, DVDs, online games for teens, and more!)
If your student is old enough to discern troubling content on his own, have him come to you with anything he finds offensive. Read the chapter together and decide if it is a book that deems worthy of continuing.
Pray. The Holy Spirit is faithful to give wisdom when we ask for it. He will let you know if something your student is viewing is against His will for your family, but you do need to ask and be sensitive to His leading.
Scholastic is not a Christian run company. Even if it were, there would not likely be unanimous decisions on every title that they promote. As stated earlier, there are varying opinions even among Christian parents over what titles fall into the harmful vs. harmless categories where some pagan ideas are concerned. But with some discernment and a little time – good parenting does take time – we can navigate what reading material is “safe” for our children. It often just depends on what you are trying to accomplish (or avoid) with the reading material you choose to allow your student to lay his eyes on.
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Tanya Clifton was the contributing writer for this article. She is a homeschool mom to two
teenage girls and the wife of twenty-two years to her best friend. She was born and raised in
San Diego and is currently relocating to Wyoming where she plans to pursue her writing career and take up photography.