Rebecca Hagelin
During the lazy, long, hot days of summer, which activity would you rather see your son or daughter engaged in -- playing a video game or reading a book?

A silly question, right? After all, nearly every parent will say, “Reading a book.” But whether that’s truly the better activity depends on what book your child is reading. And as I’ve told readers of this column before, plenty of books designed for today’s pre-teens and teenagers undermine the traditional moral values most parents struggle to teach their children.

This time of year, kids of all ages come home with the oft-dreaded “Summer Reading List” from which they make their choices. Many of the lists are created from the recommended reading lists of the American Library Association.

The first time I pulled such a list from my son’s backpack, I was struck by the lack of classics, or even recognizable authors or titles. Today’s lists are even more bothersome -- you’ll be hard-pressed to find a classic by Mark Twain, Jules Verne or Charles Dickens on an ALA list, but on the ALA’s “2006 Notable Children’s Books” you can find “Totally Joe” by James Howe. “Joe knows he is gay,” the ALA notes.

“During his 8th grade year, an English journaling assignment helps him express his growing self-awareness.”

Many of the books from the recommended lists are filled with perverted “love” stories, sexual activity and crude behavior -- anything and everything, it seems, to get our kids’ hormones heated up for the summer (as if they need any help). Of course, if you’re going to challenge authorities or librarians about the appropriateness of such material for kids, as one of my readers did, be prepared to be labeled a “right wing crusader.”

If you decide to forego an ALA list and instead head to your local bookstore for a selection, awaiting you front-and-center in the “Teens” section you’ll find the “Gossip Girl” series by Cecily von Ziegesar. She’s written more than a half dozen volumes, which offer, according to one blurb review on the back covers, “Sex and the City for the younger set.” Readers see the characters “drown in luxury while indulging in [their] favorite sports -- jealousy, betrayal and late-night bar-hopping.” In one volume, “I Like It Like That,” the cast is on Spring Break, heading to Sun Valley “for plenty of après-ski hot tub fun” and gossip about “who’s sleeping where.”

Rebecca Hagelin

Rebecca Hagelin is a public speaker on the family and culture and the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family.
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