A few weeks ago I nearly hyperventilated when I walked into the grocery store with my 13 year old daughter and found a pyramid of books dominating the central area of the store. Usually this space is reserved for current dvds or toys for summer fun. That sort of thing. This display of books must have been close to nine or ten feet tall and it was comprised of hundreds of copies of the Fifty Shades series. I found out later that they had copies of each book at all 25 checkout lanes too. As I stood there gaping, I watched a young girl of about 14-15 years old run up to the books like it was Christmas morning. She had a hold of her mother’s purse and was dragging her mother dangerously close to fifty shades of disaster if she didn’t stop jumping around the massive display. She clutched the book to her chest and squealed out loud that she had to have this book. I was shocked. I mean I know the book is everywhere but…really? Surely someone would stop this madness.
As I watched, the girl told her mother that the book had originally started out as an Edward and Bella story that someone had written online. This caught the mom’s attention.
“Seriously?” She raised an eyebrow at her daughter and gave the book another glance.
Oh yes. The young girl went on to tell the whole story of how Fifty Shades had gotten published and now it was a NY Times Best Seller! EVERYONE is reading this book! It was even on Saturday Night Live! I was waiting for mom to shake her head and walk away but she didn’t. She shrugged her shoulders and said “If it started out as Twilight it must be okay. That’s cool. Go ahead.” And the girl happily grabbed a copy of each book and told her mom how very much she loved her.
That girl had no doubt in her mind that her mother was the coolest mom ever. And that mom had no idea that she’d just handed her young teenage daughter a series of books with graphic hardcore pornographic scenes that ‘teaches’ a BDSM lifestyle to a young innocent character and turns her into someone’s sexual toy. (For Radiant Lit’s opinion on this series, please see our article, Fifty Shades of Jill and Lori .)
Unfortunately, this is not the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing happen. When my daughter was in school we went to every single book fair and it wasn’t unusual to see a parent ‘give in’ to a child’s pleading for a certain book and not have a clue what the book was about. In fact the librarian for the school was running the register when I agreed to buy a book for my daughter. She was surprised to hear me say that I needed to read it first so I could know what it was about. She mentioned that I was the first parent she’d ever heard say she needed to read the book first and she was surprised by that. The majority of parents assume that because the book is at the school book fair, it must be okay. But that’s not the case. Most of the time book fairs are being hosted by the various publishers in the industry. They are there to sell your children books – not to be a parent. If a book sells, then it’s good for the company. That doesn’t mean that book is good for your kids to read.
As parents, we need to have a good handle on what our kids are reading. What gets put into their minds is impossible to remove once it’s there. Philippians 4:8 says we are to meditate on
“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.” (NIV)
It’s hard to do that if we’re being entertained by things that are diametrically opposed to God’s word.
Now I’m not saying that as believers we can’t read some of the fantasy or science fiction out there that has some of these things in it. As adults, we can separate more easily what’s good and what’s right. Children (yes, even teenagers) can have a much harder time separating fact from fiction. Especially when the publishing world adds toys or movies or costumes that allow them to further immerse themselves in these fictitious worlds and make them seem more ‘real.’
It’s so important that we get kids to not only use their imaginations, but also to guide them in the safest and best ways to explore the creativity God planted in us. A key ingredient in helping their minds grow safely is making sure that what they read reflects solid values. When we teach them to be entertained by things that are opposed to God’s word, we take away some of the value of God’s commands. Instead of being something to be respected, we turn them into ‘harmless’ entertainment. We also run the risk of desensitizing ourselves and our kids to things which God wants us to avoid. He doesn’t want us to dismiss their importance. He wants us to avoid them. If we’re entertained by them and wrapping ourselves in books about sexual topics or demons, how can we sense the urgent danger they can create for us?
Next week: Are the trends in YA reading creating The Revelation Generation?