Scholastic Books are a large publishing company with over $1.5 billion in revenue and known for distributing educational books to schools, teachers, parents, and children. They have over three thousand books in print, a well-established book club for schools, teaching collections, and guided reading programs that are widely used by public and private schools.
Recently, two Scholastic books found their way into our home. My son earned two books of his choice from our local library for completing a summer reading challenge. Both books were from Scholastic Books and part of the I Survived series, which is meant to bring history to life for grades 2-7 with books on the important moments in American history.
We have a policy that we always preview what our children read and watch, so my son handed me I Survived the American Revolution, 1776 and I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001. I began reading I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 and learned that it told the story of two planes flying into the buildings and centered around the heroic efforts of a firefighter who responded by selflessly saving lives.
I quickly learned that Scholastic books present a distorted version of history. I Survived the Attacks of September 11, 2001 did not mention who flew the planes into the buildings or why the event happened. Children cannot understand this event in history without knowing that nineteen radical young Muslim men believed they were pleasing their god by flying a plane into a building for the purpose of killing Americans. In this instance, Scholastic Books omitted critical information in an attempt to shape a child’s moral views.
Good literature always feeds a child’s imagination. It transports a reader to new worlds, different places, and creates exciting adventures. In stories, children are placed into difficult situations or challenging dilemmas and inevitably wonder, “What would I do?” “What should the character do?” These types of questions are not meaningless or unimportant. They are moral and ethical questions. As children read a book about the attack on 9/11 or the American Revolution, they are daydreaming about being there and in those dreams they must make moral decisions about the situations they are presented in literature. Subtly, children are also given instruction about what is right or wrong by the decisions the characters make or the outcome of the story.
Literature shapes a child’s moral imagination
Literature stretches a reader’s moral imagination and ethical muscles. That is where problems arise with Scholastic books. Children are reading books for fun, but in the process the morality of the author and publishing company is shaping the reader through the characters that walk onto the pages and provide a model how to respond to the life situations they face.
Views of morality are in every Scholastic book. We could point to many examples of positive choices modeled for children in Scholastic books, but the unbiblical views are overwhelmingly high and are poisonous to the faith development of impressionable and vulnerable children. A quick glance through the most recent Scholastic book catalog reveals the morality of the publishing giant is nowhere close to the morality of the Bible. In Star Crossed, Mattie likes to play with Gemma and wonders if she might have a crush on boys and girls. In Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees children are to imagine that they are the refugee trying to escape a war zone and the country they want to come to doesn’t want them. Witch Boy tells the story of characters who do not fit in with others and learn to gain the courage to be themselves – a witch. What Should She Do encourages feminism by teaching girls to challenge inequality, gender stereotyping, body shaming, and bullying.
What should you do?
Here are four suggestions to consider:
- Parents must monitor everything a child reads. If you are not doing that already, that is step one. It takes diligence and time, but it is a critical aspect of helping children develop a biblical worldview. If you see a book published by Scholastic, assume there is an unbiblical morality weaved into the story.
- Find a Christian alternative for Scholastic Books. Scholastic is a publishing company, so begin by identifying Christian publishing companies with great moral books for children and purchase books from them. Some of the Christian publishing companies that we return to often include Grace & Truth books, Rabbit Room Press, Master Books, New Growth Press, Leaf Publishing House, P&R, and Shepherd’s Press. You could also look at who published some of the books you love and see what else they offer.
- If you are a Christian school, use a Christian publisher for your book club. Most publishers offer a print catalog and I’m sure if the publishing company was contacted directly, a discount could be established if your school wanted to create a book club using their catalog.
- Locate vetted reading lists. There are entire books devoted to this such as Honey For a Child’s Heart, The Read Aloud Family, Books that Children Love, and Books that Build Character. These are a good place to start and will likely lead you to more sources. We have personally benefitted from Carol Joy Seid’s book lists, which recommend the best books from many publishers. There are so many books published today that we have a simple principle — only read great books. You won’t find Diary of a Wimpy Kid on our shelves. Good books are easy to find. We want the best of the best!
Are your children reading scholastic books? If so, it’s time to find an alternative. Choose books that build a child’s morality from a biblical perspective instead.