This month’s Catholic Teen Books Faith Through Fiction features two authors, T.M.Gaouette and Leslea Wahl, sharing the importance of faith-filled books for teens.
I loved to read as a child. One of my childhood memories is of me walking to school, nose in a book, with the guidance of my sister as I meandered between other pedestrians and crossed roads. I absolutely LOVED reading. I met many characters, went on tons of adventures, and learned so much about the world. The latter was not always a good thing, because for the most part, I had free rein on the books I chose to read.
There was no rhyme or reason to what I read, from classics by Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott, to the typical teen stories of my time like those by Judy Blume. Quite honestly, there were books that I read that I definitely wouldn’t allow my own children to read.
Regardless of what I read, fiction had a huge influence on me. It introduced me to many real-life scenarios that I would otherwise not be aware of, such as intimate relationships, devious behavior, and attractive villains. I loved reading so much, but I look back and wonder if some of what I read impacted me in the wrong way, instilling within me thoughts and feelings that conflicted with my faith.
Baptized a Catholic but never truly practicing until I became a mother, I look back at the wasted time and occasion for spiritual growth. The many opportunities I could have used to learn more about my beautiful Catholic faith or take advantage of the sacramental gifts Jesus gave us, or meandered through my early life, strong and protected by the armor of God. No person in my life taught me about any of that. Could fiction have filled that void?
As Catholics, it’s our responsibility to know, love, and serve God at all times. That’s our purpose. But do we always know what that looks like? That can be difficult to comprehend as an adult, let alone as children or teens. Our youth live in a world where God is pushed out of everything and Christians are ridiculed and persecuted. So, where are they supposed to learn how to glorify God? Who are they supposed to emulate?
Sure, we as parents are responsible for nurturing the faith within them, and our churches try through Catechism classes and youth group, but how do we offer them those day-to-day scenarios that we’re often not a part of, such as those at school or while hanging out with friends? We can’t be with them every second, and if we can, we can’t demonstrate the real-life scenarios that they will eventually have to navigate alone. Should we just throw them into the world and pray for the best? I’m certainly not prepared to do that. Sure, we can teach them about the armor of God. We can remind them daily to glorify God in everything they say and do. We can urge them to remain faithful to His will. But what does all of that actually look like, especially in a world that is so lacking in role models their age?
Christ used parables for teaching. He showed us the power of the Word and the story. So, why are we not using stories more to guide and nurture and edify our youth in a positive way, just as Jesus did? If stories can influence us in the negative, why not use them purposefully for good?
With Faith Through Fiction, I say absolutely!
Faith Through Fiction is such an effective tool for selecting the right story for the struggle our teens are dealing with. I pray that with this resource, parents will recognize that the value of a good book goes above and way beyond an entertaining story, but that it can actually offer faith-strengthening guidance to a growing and developing teen. Guidance that is sadly lacking in our world.
T.M. Gaouette is the author of the Faith & Kung Fu series for young adults, as well as For Eden’s Sake. Born in Africa, raised in London, England, Gaouette now lives on a small farmstead in New England with her husband, where she homeschools her four children, raises goats, and writes fiction for teens and young adults.
It might seem odd, but I never thought much about the power of fiction until I became an author.
My writing career began years ago when I was trying to find books for my fifth-grade son. He was an advanced reader, so he wanted to read YA novels. However, so much of the subject matter in those books was not appropriate for him. I spent a lot of time searching for books that would be fun and adventurous so that he would enjoy them, yet also matched the values we were trying to instill in him.
When I finally began writing the kind of YA novels that I had been searching for, I realized the incredible opportunity I had to share Catholic truths, values, and beliefs through my stories.
Children today are bombarded daily with messages through TV shows, movies, music, and video games that go against our Catholic values. As much as we try to shelter them, they are exposed to alternative messages and told that certain lifestyles and decisions are completely fine. It truly is frightening to see the deterioration of Christian values in our society.
We at Catholic Teen Books understand these concerns and recognize that teens face tremendous pressures.
So, what is Faith Through Fiction, and how can it help your family?
Each month our Faith Through Fiction videos discuss topics that today’s teen might be struggling with, and we offer book suggestions that explore those issues.
Our videos are a great place for you to find books that might help your child with a problem they are dealing with. Fictional books have a unique way of highlighting consequences to certain behaviors and offering positive responses to difficult situations. Relatable characters can be incredible influences on young people.
Our videos offer fantastic options for your teen’s reading list, or a great suggestion for when a grandparent needs a gift idea.
Our videos can be shared and used as supplements for teachers, librarians, and youth group leaders by offering book ideas reflecting Catholic values.
Or maybe you are hoping for more interaction with your teens. Have you thought of choosing a book that you and your children all read, whether together or separately, then discuss it in a family book club? You might be amazed how topics that teens are normally reluctant to talk about can be approached through a book discussion.
Whether you are looking for a fun, exciting story with a positive message, or are searching for a Catholic viewpoint on a controversial topic, we at Catholic Teen Books are excited to help you discover engaging faith-based novels for your teens. Please check out our Faith Through Fiction series to find your teen’s next adventure.
Leslea Wahl is an award-winning author of Catholic teen adventurous mysteries. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her family. Leslea believes one way to encourage teens in their faith is through positive messages and Catholic values, embedded in great stories. She is excited to share her reviews of some incredible Catholic books, all of which have received the Catholic Writer’s Guild Seal of Approval. Find her online at LesleaWahl.com.
Previous episodes of Faith Through Fiction are available online. Topics featured in prior months include summer reads, temptation, making friends, bullying, putting God first, finding your purpose, and sacrifice. For more information on Catholic Teen Books and other reading recommendations, visit http://www.catholicteenbooks.com.
Copyright 2019 Carolyn Astfalk for Catholic Teen Books