How to scout worthwhile movies for your kids

With summer in full swing , perhaps like me you’d like to watch a few good movies with your kids.  But with all the hair-raising stuff appearing onscreen, parents can use some good advance reporting on movie content.

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite voices on all things movie, Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S. P.,  director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, California. With a masters in media studies from the University of London, Pacatte does media literacy education for parents and teachers. We interviewed her a few years back at U.S. Catholic  magazine, and her down-to-earth wisdom about movies and TV and kids was refreshing. 

Pacatte’s website contains not only current reviews of some movies in theaters and recently on DVD, but also a list of movies chosen for her “Meeting Jesus at the Movies Program for Kids 2010.”   She also lists movies that embody the sacraments  as well as “Movie Bible Nights: The Ten Commandments for 2010” (many movies in these last two categories are for adults).

Pacatte is a wise, down to earth guide to Hollywood’s offerings.

Other movie resources: screenit.com, which offers exhaustive content analysis for movies (language, nudity, violence, drugs, even “jump scenes”).  Free access to info about most movies; you can pay to subscribe to see reviews of new movies as soon as they come out.

The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also reviews movies in theaters and coming to DVD (you can find the list of the Vatican’s top 45 films at this site, too). And Nell Minow’s Movie Mom blog also reviews movies with a reliable parent’s eye.

Phillies fan dad rates a homily

Check out this great homily for Sunday, Sept 19 by Fr. Austin Fleming, which took off from the popular You Tube video of Steve Monforto, the dad at the Phillies game who caught his first foul ball, handed it to his 3-year-old daughter, and then watched as she turned and tossed the baseball over the railing.  The look on his face  and his reaction to his young daughter as he realizes what’s happening is a homily unto itself.   Fr. Fleming blogs regularly as A Concord Pastor.

Looking for a few good books?

Most of us parents are perpetually hunting for good new (or old) books to read to our kids.  Now comes Mary Margaret Keaton in Book marked: Stories to raise your children by in the October U.S. Catholic, who points out all the ways that reading can deepen a child’s faith.  She lists a number of books in the article itself, and you can write in with your own favorite kids’ books here

Also read what bestselling author Jim Trelease says about the value of reading aloud to your kids, long after they can read to themselves.  Check out Trelease’s Treasury of Read-Alouds (for all ages).

Happy reading!

How to screen your kids’ movies

My sister-in-law, a teacher, told me recently about the day she discovered to her horror that many of the 6-year-olds in her first-grade class had seen the movie “Saw.” 

Assuming for the sake of argument that none of us gathered here would do anything like that intentionally to our kids, here are three sites to ensure that you’re not inadvertently dragging your little ones to movies filled with gore,  sex, or violence. 

Nell Minow, the Movie Mom, rates movies at Beliefnet and recommends an age range for whom the movie is appropriate.   Down to earth, common-sense reviews.

Screenit.com offers an exhaustive, detailed analysis of old and new movies (how many swear words, descriptions of each violent or sexual scene, etc). You can subscribe to get this data for brand-new movies; movies older than one week are available free at the site. If you don’t want to subscribe, click “no thanks” at the bottom of the home page to get to the movie database.

Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Culver City, California, has a wonderful blog on movies.  We’ve interviewed her here at our offices and I can say I’ve never met a funnier, livelier source on media literacy and finding themes of our faith in movies and on TV.  She even has a whole list of movies with themes mirroring the seven sacraments and conducts a National Film Retreat each year.

Book review: The Lord’s Prayer

The Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer

If you’re tired of the endless parade of children’s books that chronicle the story of creation and Noah’s ark as if they are the only two child-friendly accounts in the Bible, you’ll love The Lord’s Prayer by Tim Ladwig (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2002).

A great gift for Baptism, First Communion, or just because, Ladwig illustrates the Our Father with watercolor and acrylic pictures of an African American dad and his daughter. The father brings the Lord’s Prayer to life for his little girl as they go about their day, helping an elderly neighbor. They eat lunch together on the porch (give us this day our daily bread) and the girl returns to her neighbor a medallion she finds in the grass (lead us not into temptation). The realistic yet beautiful illustrations make reading this book aloud to a child a prayer in itself.