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that’s great. The author will not be offended and will never know unless you
The other key is discussion. Talk to
your teens about what they are reading,
even if it means listening to long, convoluted synopses. This exercise will help
your teens learn to express their thoughts
better, provide you with discussion points
to touch on, and help you bond with your
teen as you hear their thoughts, insights,
and conclusions. Teens are also inclined
to make better choices if they know a
parent is interested in learning about
Below is a list of questions you and
your teen should ask yourselves as you
read a work of literature, listen to an au-diobook, or watch a movie. These suggestions, adapted from my curriculum,
Literary Lessons from The Lord of the Rings,
will help you make better choices about
what you read and help keep your mind
alert to any dangers as you read.
• Does there seem to be an undue
amount of violence in this book? Does
the violence seem especially graphic,
glorified, or unnecessary to the plot?
• Do the heroes or heroines often engage
in activities I feel are wrong? (Because
we tend to identify with the protago-
nist as we read, this can have a greater
impact on you than actions performed
by the villains.)
• Is it hard to figure out who the villain
is because the lines between good and
evil seem blurred?
• Do I find myself identifying with the
villain because he or she is portrayed
• Does this book encourage me to have
virtuous thoughts and actions or evil
ones? Does it make me want to become
a better person or a worse one?
• Are there words and images in this
book that are beginning to affect my
mental vocabulary or thought patterns? Am I starting to think about
these words or images even if I don’t
yet say the words or do the actions?
• Does this book excite my curiosity
about things that are wrong or evil?
• Does this book make me feel uncomfortable? Why?
• How are enemies treated in this book
by the end? With revenge? Forgiveness? Compassion?
• How do the events in this book line up
with the teachings of Scripture?
Another helpful tip for teaching discernment is the use of a Novel Evaluation
I created this form for use with my
own teens and the ones I teach in group
settings. You may choose to use this for
every book your teens read or only for
select ones. The point of the form is for
them not only to provide basic book information, but also to apply the truths of
Scripture to what they read.
As parents, we need to teach our children to not only become readers, but to
become thoughtful, discerning readers.
We need to teach them to become the
guardians of their own minds.
Amelia Harper is a homeschooling mother
of five and a pastor’s wife. She is also the
author of Literary Lessons from the Lord
of the Rings, a complete one-year literature curriculum designed for secondary
level homeschooled students. In addition,
she is an English tutor and a freelance
writer who contributes regularly to newspapers and magazines. For more information, go to www.homescholarbooks.com.