Katie Fitzgerald shares her best practice for determining whether a children’s book is appropriate for young Catholic readers.
It’s no secret that children’s book publishers and children’s librarians often have values that don’t mesh with Catholic teaching. It can be overwhelming to realize how much moms have to research the books our kids read to avoid accidentally exposing them to damaging content. As much as we might love to pre-read every single book, most of us don’t have the extra time or energy to commit to such a monumental task.
I worked in public libraries for several years and read lots of books during that time, but even so, many of the titles that cross my path these days are brand-new and unfamiliar to me. Thankfully, the proliferation of book reviews on the Internet makes it possible for me to vet those books in just a few minutes.
The first thing I do is search for the book on either Amazon or Goodreads and read the description. Sometimes, if there are red flags to be raised, they show up right here and there is no need for further investigation. Lately, though, publishers have been less forthright about the contents of their books than they used to be. A lack of red flags in the description isn’t necessarily a green light. So the next thing I do is look at the reviews.
The reviews I find most useful are those written to accompany ratings at the very high or very low end of the scale. Though we naturally associate 5 stars with good books and 1 star with poor ones, it’s actually most helpful in our case to read some reviews from either end of the spectrum. Sometimes one-star reviews will complain about the absence of certain topics or themes from a book, and these will be the exact topics and themes I am looking to filter out. Other times, five-star reviews will sing a book’s praises for including those very same things I am hoping to avoid. More than once, a one-star review complaining that a title was “too Christian” or “too wholesome” has led me to a new favorite book. A reviewer with vastly different views from mine can often provide me with the exact information I need to make an informed parenting decision.
By the same token, one-star and five-star reviews by reviewers who share my beliefs can give me some quick insight into a given book’s content. When I find reviewers who seem to be kindred spirits, I make sure to bookmark or follow them so that I can easily see their thoughts on other books my kids might be interested in. I also like to investigate whether these reviewers have a presence on the Internet aside from Amazon or Goodreads. Some reviewers have blogs where they post not just reviews, but also book lists. These can be a great resource for finding more trustworthy books to hand to your kids in place of any they have chosen that don’t meet with your approval.
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Our kids’ imaginations are worth protecting however we can. #catholicmom
Our kids’ imaginations are worth protecting however we can. By making good use of online reviews freely shared by real readers, we can cut down on the amount of work it takes to research our kids’ reading material and still ensure that we’re not introducing content we will later regret inviting into their young minds.
Copyright 2022 Katie Fitzgerald
About the Author
Katie Fitzgerald is a former children's librarian turned stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. She and her librarian husband live in Maryland with their five children, the youngest of whom are boy/girl twins. She has published two textbooks for librarians, and she writes about homeschooling, books and the reading life from a Catholic perspective at ReadAtHomeMom.com and on Instagram @read.at.home.mom.