And that, Sharon stresses, is exactly what Facts on Fiction is intended to do -- make it easier for parents to do their job. The aim is not to censor books or call for boycotts, but to allow parents to decide if a certain book is right for their child. Sometimes it’s a question of timing: A book that’s acceptable for a 16-year-old, for example, may be wrong for an 11-year-old. Other times, a book is so bad that a parent may decide it’s never acceptable. But that’s the beauty of Facts on Fiction: Either way, the parent decides.
The reviews, conducted by retired teachers, librarians, home-schooling moms and writers, summarize the books and then examine how they approach certain sensitive topics. There are six main categories:
§ Mature Subject Matter
§ Sexual Content
§ Violence/Illegal Activity
§ Disrespectful/Anti-Social Elements
Each category is broken into specifics. For example, does the book in question contain mild obscenities, sexual references or scatological terms, and if so, how often? The reviews will tell you. And if you need more detail (including quotes and page numbers), the reviews give you that as well. The “Disrespectful/Anti-Social Elements” is particularly helpful for those trying to gauge the overall moral tone. For example, do characters lie, cheat or steal without consequence?
As for selection, some might expect Facts on Fiction to profile the more salacious titles out there, like Cecily von Ziegesar’s “Gossip Girl” series. But as Sharon notes, there’s limited value to doing that. For one thing, these books tend to be upfront about what they offer. (Ziegesar’s book proudly calls itself, right on the cover, “Sex and the City for the younger set.”) Plus, books that appear safe but sneak in some inappropriate content can be worse, if only because they catch parents off guard. That’s why Facts on Fiction concentrates on the books that don’t seem threatening -- the allegedly “safe,” award-winning titles found on school reading lists.
The bottom line is: There’s now a site designed to equip parents with the information they need to make the right decisions about what their children read. Kudos to “Facts on Fiction” for making the tough job of parenting just a little bit easier.