‘Do You Know What’s in the Books Your Kids Are Reading?’: Homeschool Curriculum Founder
When an American mom discovered that her daughter’s rude attitude was coming from the popular, modern books she was bringing home from her school library, it set her on a life-changing journey.
She not only succeeded at completely reversing her daughter’s attitude but also launched a successful homeschool curriculum company—which now helps hundreds of thousands of families choose wholesome literature that inspires children toward high moral character.
In an interview with The Epoch Times, mom of five Jenny Phillips, founder and owner of The Good and the Beautiful, said the books her daughter—“an avid reader”—was reading in elementary school looked fine on the surface.
“The covers were cute, and the books were popular and featured at her school library,” Phillips said. “We had realized many years earlier the impact that inappropriate movies, TV, and music had on our children’s hearts and minds, and only allowed appropriate media. But we had never thought of books and how much power they had.”
Phillips ultimately discovered that it was “books alone,” as well as influence from school friends, that had taught her daughter to be “rude and shallow.” Thus, it was with utter determination that Jenny undertook a dramatic overhaul of the books she allowed for her daughter, predominantly swapping out the modern bestsellers full of immoral and unworthy content for their classic predecessors—with moral lessons still intact.
“Our efforts to expose her to the clean and uplifting books began to fundamentally change her character,” Phillips said, adding that it was amazing to see how changing the books she read “completely reversed her rude and shallow behaviors over time.”
Impact of Modern Books
In November 2019, Phillips shared her eldest daughter Kate’s story in a YouTube video, describing the moment, 10 years ago, she became acutely aware that something was amiss with the way her daughter’s character was turning out.
Nine years old at the time, Kate had just arrived home from school when her mom was waiting on the porch with a home-baked snack for her.
“I was excited to see her,” Phillips recalled in the video. “She was with her friend, and she said, ‘Hey, can I go play with my friend?’ and I said, ‘Sure, but why don’t you come on in and we’ll have some family time first.’”
Phillips, who now has five children between the ages of 7 and 21, including Kate, who’s now 19, was devastated when her daughter made fun of her suggestion.
“Her and her friend looked at each other and rolled their eyes, and my daughter goes, ‘Family time? I don’t need family time,’ and she walked away,” Phillips said.
Baffled as to where this attitude was coming from, she considered the possible causes of her daughter’s rudeness.
“I was thinking that day, ‘How does my daughter have this character where she’s so disrespectful,’” Phillips said, “and I was thinking, ‘We’re a good family, we study the Bible, we have prayers; we’re not perfect, but we are a loving family and we’re trying so hard to teach our children good character.’”
That night, while cleaning up some things in Kate’s bedroom, Phillips would discover the source of her daughter’s disrespectful attitude. When she picked up one of her books to put it away, she read a sentence where the main character was making fun of her mother.
“I was surprised, so I started reading the books she was checking out from school,” Phillips told The Epoch Times. “I quickly felt literally sick to my stomach. The books were packed with everything we were trying to teach her to avoid: disrespect to parents, rude behavior, self-centeredness, focus on body image, and obsession with boys at a young age.
“Kids model what they read and see. I could see how these types of books had already deeply affected her character.”
Phillips, who majored in English at college, noticed that the books Kate was reading were all “quick-read, fast-paced books” and “of low literary merit,” and she was sad to see her daughter care so little for good books.
“She had no appreciation or desire for truly good literature,” Phillips said. “Rude behaviors were in literally every book of hers that she had been reading.
“This was not how I wanted my daughter’s heart and mind molded!”
The Good and the Beautiful
Determined to reverse the direction her daughter was heading in, the committed mom told her daughter that, from then on, she could only read books that had been pre-read and approved by her. Yet, after filtering every single book and finding not one of them to be appropriate, she took the next brave step on their shared journey.
“The problem was, every book she brought home from school was not appropriate—every single one,” Phillips said. “So I had to go on a search of my own to find good books for her.”
It was this search that would eventually lead Phillips to create and publish a “library of wholesome books,” which is known today as The Good and the Beautiful Book List—a free resource for families—and The Good and the Beautiful Library, which consists of hundreds of classic books that were previously out of print or hard to find but now published by Phillips’s company, as well as many new, original books.
“Finding good books was not easy, but I became very passionate about my search for good books.” Phillips said. “Knowing that most parents could not preview all their children’s books like I was, I wanted to share the work I was doing with others.”
In the beginning, Kate was resistant to the changes her mom was making with the books, and it took about two years for her parents to notice real changes in her.
“I wish I could say she just ate up the good books, but that was not the case,” Phillips said. “She refused to read them, saying they were so boring and dumb.
“I decided to do whatever I needed to do to get her to read good books—so I paid her for every book she read. We gave her no allowance, so it was the only way she could earn money. She was only allowed to read books I approved as good, and she read them—just to earn money.”
Kate still didn’t like the books she was being paid to read, “but I persisted,” Phillips said.
Noticing that Kate’s schoolteacher was reading disrespectful books aloud in class and that other students’ rude behaviors were rubbing off on her, Phillips and her husband pulled her out of school and started homeschooling her instead. Eventually their efforts paid off, and they no longer needed to pay her to read good books; Kate even began helping her mom search for more books.
“We enjoyed talking together about the good messages and beautiful writing in the books,” said Phillips, who’s also a Christian singer-songwriter. “She got to the point that for Christmas, she was asking for old, beautiful books from the late 1800s that she was collecting.
“Wholesome books filled her mind and turned her heart to love of nature, learning, family, and well-written, wholesome literature. It was worth the effort! I think about how she might be today if we had not made this change, and I just can’t be more grateful for the path we took.”
Upon seeing how reading only books with moral merit completely changed their daughter for the better, Phillips was inspired “to help others find that path.” It was then that she created the free book list, sharing it on her music website at first.
Then, when she “could not find a homeschool curriculum she loved and dreamed of” for her children because “no curriculum had the depth of meaning and beauty” she was looking for, she ventured even further.
Using funds saved from selling over one million CDs as a successful music producer, she put together a team of specialists and, in 2015, launched The Good and the Beautiful (TGATB) homeschool curriculum, which “emphasizes family, God, high character, nature, and wholesome literature.”
The Good and the Beautiful offers curriculum resources in language arts, math, science and health, and history for grades pre-K–8 and high school, including free downloadable language arts course sets for grades 1–5. The free book list resource she initially put up on her music website is now available on The Good and the Beautiful website, along with the Library of books published by the company. TGATB has now become the top-most-searched Christian homeschool curriculum in the world, according to a blog published on the company’s website on July 13.
“What we have found is that many, many parents are in the position I once was—they have no idea how books are affecting their children.” Phillips said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see so many parents taking the same journey I did and finding the same sweet rewards.
“Not everyone loves our message, however. Many parents are just happy if their child will read anything, and they are afraid their children won’t love reading if they give them clean, high-value books. I am bold in my message: Trust good books. If you plant the seeds of good books, even though it takes work and persistence, you will reap a bountiful harvest.”
Be Brave About Books
In another video by TGATB, titled “Be Brave About Books,” Phillips poses the question: “Do you really know what is in the books your children are reading and how it is affecting them?”
She goes on to describe how books have been changing in the last century “and in turn, changing the character of children, family dynamics, and our communities.”
“No one is talking about how disrespectful books for kids are massively changing the character of children—but they should be!” Phillips told The Epoch Times. “We teach our children over and over again, ‘Don’t be rude. Love your family. Be kind.’ Then we keep giving them books that teach kids to be rude, dislike your family, and be unkind.”
Phillips says that new books for children are going way beyond potty humor and making fun of family. “We are beyond the days when we can let our children read anything recommended at the library, or on their book-order list. Even if it has a cute cover with puppies on it,” she said in the video, adding that “this is just the beginning of what is coming.”
“Darkness is attacking through literature, and we must be vigilant, and we must choose to see, choose to care, and to act. Draw your line, and be brave. … We are losing a whole generation of children that care about literature that is good and beautiful. It is parents that can change this.”
Phillips believes that children actually have an amazing ability to discern if they have not been desensitized by loads of rude behavior in books and media.
“My other children, who are younger than Kate, followed in Kate’s footsteps, reading only good books,” Phillips said. “Even at a young age, they could discern books that were not appropriate. One day, my 6-year-old stood up, went to the garbage, threw away a book he had been reading, and said: ‘Well, that’s not a good book. The boy just made fun of his sister.’”
As for Kate, who’s now 19 years old and a teacher at a small private school, she “rejoices in good books” and helps her mom research and find them, collecting “rare, wholesome” books of her own along the way. She would like to write “clean and inspiring musicals,” and wants a large family one day, and she “can’t wait to bring good, inspiring books into their lives,” her mom said.
As a personal witness to the profound changes that can be made in a child’s life by the kind of books and education given to them, Phillips acknowledges the hardships and challenges parents might face taking the path she took, but says “it’s worth the effort a million times over.”
“Choosing only good books and educating children in light and truth is definitely pushing against the tide. It may feel really hard—and it is.” Phillips said. “But remember this, not pushing against the tide will be much harder in the end. Not pushing against the tide will bring some very hard days for you and your children, and perhaps some deep sorrows as well.
“I truly believe that if every child in America was only exposed to truly good and clean books, our country would be profoundly different—that is the impact that books make.”
For parents considering taking the plunge into the world of “good and beautiful books,” Phillips offers the following advice:
“The first step is to remove all inappropriate books. Children need to be immersed in only good books for so long that they are no longer desensitized. This can take years for some children. Over time, immersed in powerful, clean books, children will have the ability to discern for themselves because they are no longer desensitized to rude and shallow behavior. You will have to help them along until they get to that point. Persistence is key. Don’t freak out when your child says the good books are boring. It’s to be expected. That is because they are used to books that are fast-paced and all about thrill. Give them time. The power of good books will work its wonders for your child if you persist long enough.”