Parents often ask for advice about reading material for their children, because they want to expose their children to as much Krishna consciousness as possible, and limit their exposure to materialism.
Instead they run into several practical problems. The first being that there is a shortage of good Krishna conscious books for children, and the second being that many children will read almost anything they can get their hands on. Parents wonder what they can do to see that their children are reading books that will foster the Krishna consciousness.
By discrimination and looking for something that is deep enough to understand how it will influence their thinking and life. Parents need to go beyond the superficial mind set that modern society conditions us to. The same mind set where most problems can be solved within the thirty minutes, in which buying toys can give one true satisfaction, and in which there is no clear right and wrong. No one knows the absolute truth and the best we can do is come up with our own reality.
Children are exposed all day with the full force of corporate marketing and political and social propaganda, gross and subtle, which is why we must teach them how to discriminate beyond the superficial and oversimplified. The first step, is that before you give your child a book, read it yourself. Too often parents and teachers turn children loose in the library to select whatever appeals to them, not realizing that many innocent looking books subvert the values they are trying to teach them at home or in school. Adults need to learn how to evaluate books before handing them so readily over to children.
Stories are meant to be enjoyable, but most also teach something else entirely. The plot, characters, conflicts, and outcome usually support one main idea, which is often philosophical or moral. Parents should determine whether or not the theme is compatible with the Krishna conscious view of life. Children naturally identify with the heroes and main characters of books. As a parent, ask yourself if you will be satisfied seeing your children grow up emulating the qualities of those characters.
You will rarely find characters who closely resemble devotees, but at least you can look for those who demonstrate good moral behavior, appreciation for Him and His representatives, and respect for authority. The best we can expect from any book is that it will show children how to behave morally, so look for books that show a clear sense of right and wrong, ultimately having its roots in the laws of Krishna.
Parents should avoid books that push situation ethics, where there is no absolute right and wrong and everyone must come up with his or her own standards of morality for every situation. In the Vedic conception of drama, a work should have a happy ending where good is rewarded and evil is punished, which leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction and a feeling of faith in the purpose of life. Books without happy endings often leave children feeling empty, wondering if there is any order and justice in life.
Parents should ask themselves if the book shows respect for knowledge and wisdom and does it treat spiritually minded characters favorably, or as naive sentimentalists. They also need to determine what point of view the author is attempting to get across, which is it directly or indirectly focused on a supreme being, and what is the author's attitude toward religion. Humanism is so much a part of western education that we may not recognize it in modern society. If a book pushes humanism, then avoid it.