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by Tiffany Bradley

That time of year is approaching when schools send home a list of recommended or required books for summer reading. Trusting parents often take these lists as blanket approval of a book’s quality and content and dutifully take their children to the local library or bookstore to start their summer reading.

In our electronic world, adults are often so thrilled when children pick up a book to read that they don’t consider the content as they would another activity. Plus, today’s busy parents rarely have the time it takes to oversee or preview all the books their children read!

Parenting a child who reads “above grade level” is wonderful until you realize books that are challenging in vocabulary and comprehension usually include situations which simply are not age appropriate.

So what is your child reading and how do you know what the book is about?

Several years ago, a parent just like you had the same questions. And that was the beginning of Facts on Fiction (FOF), a free online resource that can help you determine if a book is right for your child.

Books are evaluated across seven categories: positive elements, mature subject matter, profanity and language, sexual content, violence and illegal activity, tobacco, alcohol and drugs, and disrespectful and anti-social elements. Occurrences are listed, along with references and specific examples.

FOF’s standardized, objective analysis isn’t a rating system or a covert attempt to censor books. You won’t even get advice about letting your child read a specific book. You will simply get objective information you need to know about the books your child selects. You alone determine whether a book is acceptable for your child.

There are more than 250 books already evaluated and posted on the site. FOF’s goal is to grow the reviewed list to include 600-700 titles which consistently appear on recommended reading lists across the nation, as well as current best-selling books young readers can find in the library or on the shelves of their favorite bookstore.

June 2007 marks the first anniversary of the national rollout of Facts on Fiction. During the past 11 months, visitors throughout the country (from Virginia to California) as well as worldwide have routinely taken advantage of this unique resource and you should, too.

This past month, FOF hit its new record high for website visits. To celebrate the growth of the website, a new feature will be added this summer. “Rant or Rave” is a forum for parents who want to share valuable ideas and insights in response to reviews posted on the site. We believe this will become a “go to” resource for educators, parents and grandparents who want to have an open dialogue about specific books.

In order to keep up with the success of this website, FOF needs more book reviewers. We can’t reach our goal of 600-700 evaluated titles without you!

If you want to be part of this unique resource, we want to hear from you. Please visit the website at for more information or simply call Jo Anne Lindley at (205) 870-9900. (The website is archived as the direct link no longer works)

Tiffany Bradley is the development director of Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.