Navigating Family Media Choices

Concerned parents need help to navigate the explosion of reading and entertainment that is now available. Performance quality and literary style improves exponentially each year, while the quality of content seems to become more morally confused by the day. I have created a helpful chart that gives links for easy access to the most popular sources available to help parents and educators make informed decisions about the reading and entertainment they offer to the children in their care. I have done so with Catholics specifically in mind, but many of these links are helpful to anyone of good will. And if you are like me it is just good having them all in one place!

I first list the organization name that is hyper linked to their site so you can easily check them out.  Then I give a brief description of what they tend to emphasize. The next section describes what kind of standards they apply to the ratings or reviews they offer. The final column lists the limitations I see in what they do, particularly in what that means for Catholic families and educators. This does not mean their ratings, reviews or products aren’t hugely helpful. I wouldn’t include them if they weren’t. I just want to help parents and educators make informed decisions… even about the sites and organizations they refer to in making their informed decisions.

Organization / Site Emphasis Standards Limitations
Secular
Common Sense Media Helpful and easily searchable ratings for Books, Movies TV, E-Games and Apps Rates content based on minimum age appropriateness. Perpetuates the mindset that an “adult/mature” rating makes it appropriate to watch or read morally objectionable material.
MPAA Ratings Current standard for film ratings: G, PG, PG13, R and more. Marked on the packaging of every title. Warning based system to alert consumers about how much objectionable content is in a film. Creates a forbidden fruit, rite-of passage desire in teens to be old enough to watch increasing amounts of toxic content.
Rotten Tomatoes Popular online movie and TV review site. The standards simply rate performance quality. Content that pushes against moral boundaries is often celebrated and faith and virtue-filled films and TV may be looked upon as trite.
Goodreads Amazon owned social media cataloging platform used by more than 55M readers and many publishers to recommend titles. Everything is welcome on Goodreads including… erotica, incest, occult and more. Platform is aligned with morally confused advertising and cultural trends that often do not support Catholic values.
OK Family Media Guide      Movie Rating and review platform that uses an interactive system to allow families to participate in the rating system. Integrates reviews from many sites. Rating system to replace MPAA ratings for movies based on the desire of parents to protect their children. As long as the ratings are influenced by “family values” folks, the platform will be an incredible resource for Catholic families. The site just rates movies.
Christian
Plugged-In Sponsored by Focus on the Family, Plugged In offers excellent reviews on movies, books, music, games and books The reviews are comprehensive and offer a host of both warnings and positive information. The reviews are based on a Protestant worldview. Understandably, Catholic titles are rarely included and Catholic faith is not celebrated.
Catholic News Service

CNS Reviews

Insightful reviews and ratings by USCCB Catholic News Service for Movies, TV, E-Games and Comics. (CNS also has traditional book reviews that are available with their column article content.) Reviews include a warning based rating system: AI, AII, AIII, L, O that caution families about objectionable content. Helpful because they give a reference point for Catholic families to consider a very broad range of choices available. The searchable, rated reviews do not include books.
Decent Films Tremendous collection of film reviews by Steve Greydanus Reviews offer stars for artistic excellence, number grades for moral/spiritual value and  letter grades for overall recommend-ability. Very thorough movie reviews on a broad range of genres. Excellent resource for Catholic families. Does not include books.
Discover Success Helpful on-line collection of book titles categorized according to virtues and positive character traits. Catholic values are affirmed but not overtly stated. Categorizes a large carefully vetted collection of children’s titles according to a large list of good habits. Each book entry links directly to an Amazon purchase page for more information. Specializes exclusively in books specific to children and parenting.
Catholic Reads A new online platform offering reviews and a range of discounts on books written by Catholic authors. Traditional style reviews, but more like a friend recommending to a friend, without a specific rating system. Specifically Catholic emphasis on books: fiction, non-fiction and memoirs.
EWTN Bookmark Catholic cable TV show that offers frank conversation highlighting a broad array of Catholic authors and books. Many books refer to personal testimony and evangelization. EWTN carefully vets titles discussed on Bookmark internal basis as part of program preparation. No published rating system. Emphasis on books. Available on cable and recordings can be purchased. Lacks real-time searchable accessibility.
                                                      Book Fairs
Scholastic Books Books and edu-tainment for Primary, Middle and Teen-age youth. Scholastic permits profanity, erotic and occult content in books for children age 12 and up. Scholastic publishes and promotes overt sexual and LGBT material (here’s a link)  for children in pre-kindergarten through teen.(one more link)

 

Well established book fair program promoting literacy through fun and deeply discounted books, but promoting faith and virtue is not a priority.

School coordinators and librarians must be vigilant to cull out morally flawed titles.

J Club Book Fairs Order-form based Book Fair run by the Daughters of St. Paul that does not require large shipments of books to be managed and displayed. All books and materials are completely consistent with Catholic faith and morals. The majority of the book selection is children’s titles actually published by Pauline Publishing.
Eureka Book Fairs

 

Virtual Book Fair in which families place orders and stock to sell does not need to be shipped in. Includes titles from Ignatius Press, Bethlehem Books, Harper Collins Christian, Ave Maria Press, Workman, Random House, Penguin, Servant and more. Ignatius Press carefully vets the book selection so that all choices are consistent with Catholic faith and morals. Offers a new approach that many parishes and families have yet to discover. Emphasizes children’s titles available from bigger publishers.
Good News Book Fairs Emerging in Florida, and offers a very broad, customizable selection of books for the whole family.

Traditional approach with books shipped in for on-site purchasing at an event.

Promotes the work of many different Catholic authors who write in a broad range of genres but are consistent with Catholic faith and morals. Geographically limited to the state of Florida area, for now. Owners are willing to brainstorm ways to coordinate fairs outside of Florida.
Need more information? Contact: VirtueWorksMedia@outlook.com

I hope this chart is helpful to you. Email me if you want more information. We need to work together to protect the purity and innocence of not only our own children but our culture as a whole. Let’s raise the bar and seek virtue in our reading and entertainment. Perhaps we can turn the tide and reduce the numbers of shootings, murders, rapes, sexual assaults, verbal and physical abuses. Let’s overcome evil in our imaginations and in our world with what is truly GOOD!

 

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Cathy Head shot open smile

I’m Cathy Gilmore, an author, editor, educator and VIRTUE WORKS MEDIA Ministry founder. We are pioneering an entirely new way to look at both print and visual media. Through the lens of virtue. This is the start of a movement in which educators and families can have clear rubrics and a dynamic platform that enables everyone to think about, enjoy and recommend quality entertainment that offers the soul satisfying content that is worth our time. Follow me on twitter @PowerofParable to get daily movie and book recommendations with a nice sprinkling of inspiring quotes.

Follow this blog at www.CatherineCGilmore.com. to get the latest information as this ministry emerges. Contact me at VirtueWorksMedia@outlook.com .

I believe Jesus had the right idea. He spoke in parables. That wasn’t just for the folks in the first century. God can use the power of parable right now to reshape culture and renew the face of the earth.

Look for the Good. Offer it to everyone.

Cathy Head shot open smile