Posted by monicamynk
Working in a school, I always hear complaints from teens that their parents don’t want them reading certain books. And, more often than not, I find them reading said books.
I know there’s a lot of controversy over to ban or not to ban, and I have no intent of getting into that here. But what I do want to discuss is the power of our influence over what our children choose.
I stopped by a big chain bookstore today for a few minutes after a doctor’s appointment, and spent some serious study of the Christian fiction titles, disturbed to find NONE of the teen books I read this summer were there. I asked the guy for help finding Revolutionary, the third in an awesome YA Christian series, Anomaly, and it wasn’t in stock on the shelves. In fact, they don’t even have a shelf dedicated to Christian teen books. The guy said if they’d carried the book, it would be located with the rest of the teen fiction.
Well, I was floored. For one thing, how am I as a YA Christian fiction writer supposed to market myself in a big chain bookstore if they don’t even have a stand-out place for my books?
But for another thing, how are you as a parent going to direct your teens to stories that will move them in the same ways that secular books do if they can’t even find them?
I’m ready to start a revolution. Let’s call it the Clean Shelf Movement and beg big chain bookstores, high school and middle school libraries, public libraries, etc. to offer a shelf in their facility dedicate to “Inspirational Teen Fiction.” Perhaps, even another shelf beside it, “Inspirational Teen Nonfiction, where they can find spiritual self help books that relate to them. Don’t like what’s out there to offer them? Be the solution. Write one yourself. I’ll help you learn how. The thing is, our teens are really struggling to find inspiration in today’s world. I know this because I see it painted on their faces every single day in my classroom. They’re hungry for this, and they don’t have an avenue.
Research YA Christian authors. Some of my favorites are Jenny B. Jones, Krista McGee, Shannon Dittemore, Melody Carlson, and TONS of indie authors that you’ve never heard of, like my friend Angela Castillo, who’s written two great speculative books for middle grades. You’ll find hundreds of books to choose from in many different genres, from Ted Dekker’s Chosen, to the ever-popular Chronicles of Narnia.
I can hear the skeptics now. Some of what they read might contradict the doctrine taught at my church. Okay, I’ll concede that Christian fiction novels are written by authors of many different faiths, but one thing to note is that the guidelines they have to follow do not permit pushing doctrine in the extreme. You might come across a practice here or there that you disagree with, but you will not find books trying to turn your kid into one faith if they belong to another. I know because I’ve read most of them.
Second, if you don’t 100% buy in that it’s you’re responsibility to teach your children what must comprise their faith, and give them the tools to dismiss false doctrine in fiction as fallacy, you’re in danger of losing their soul anyway. They need to learn to hold observations up to Biblical standards and search whether these things are so.
And third, most importantly, you’d better believe they are getting a doctrine contrary to what you want them to receive in some of the mainstream teen fiction they’re currently reading. Check out this list, available on Amazon for free. They could have some of these on their phones and you’d never even know it.
Though I’m not yet published, it’s my understanding that the guidelines of the Christian Bookseller’s Association, which most inspirational publishers follow, do not permit gratuitous acts of sex or coarse language. They do not allow writers to proselytize their distinct faiths or write “preachy” stories. You won’t find things like condoning boyfriends sneaking into bedrooms to stay overnight while the parents are blissfully unaware. So, you can bank on your teen getting a clean book that won’t fill their minds with sinful behaviors that they emulate.
So, how about it, people? Write a letter to your local bookstores,public libraries, and school libraries. Research Young Adult Christian Fiction authors and include their names, book titles, and ISBN’s. Better yet, purchase some of these books, read them, and donate them. I bet you won’t find a lot of the titles there. Ask them to join in the Clean Shelf Movement, and create a space to market Inspirational Teen Fiction in a visible location, and keep titles stocked. Then support them. Go write, buy, check out, and read.
We’ve got this, people. We’re not powerless. We can have better choices if we ask for them.
Small edit: Here’s a list of Christian Fiction authors, provided on Jill Williamson’s website.