Blog Post

Why Parents Should Ban the Goosebumps Series

goosebumpsHH writes: “Can you provide insight into the Goosebumps children’s series. My first grader selected it from her public school library.”

Although I have not read these books myself, Catholic reviewers give this series a definite thumbs-down, which is to be expected of a series that was ranked 15th on the list of most challenged books from 1990 – 1999 mostly for being too frightening for young people and depicting occult or Satanic themes.

Written by R. L. Stine and published by Scholastica (of Harry Potter fame), the Goosebumps series is categorized as children’s fiction of the horror or thriller genre. There are at least 62 titles in the series and 200 million copies in print, most of which have similar characters and plot lines.

Each book features a primary protagonist(s) who tends to be middle class and either male or female. Settings are usually remote locations ranging from suburban areas to boarding schools or campsites and usually feature characters who either just moved or were sent away to live with relatives. The characters get involved in a variety of frightening situations that usually involve the strange and supernatural.

Even though there is no death in the series, Sean Murphy, writing for the Catholic Education Resource Center, cites some of the ways the characters respond to various situations in the book as being rife with qualities no parent would want their child to emulate.

“Stine subjects the reader to a constant barrage of jealousy, spitefulness, anger, hatred and vengefulness, relying primarily upon such nasty aspects of human behavior to bring his characters to life and delineate their relationships. But he is non-judgemental in portraying such visceral passions, so his stories are unredeemed by any sense of wrongness. In effect, what Stine's characters propose to the reader is the normality of vice and the irrelevance of virtue.”

Murphy goes on to suggest that parents ban the books because “the centrality of vice and neutralization of virtue in the series are not conducive to the formation of a virtuous character.”

Instead, “The books foster a progressive dependency on the thrill of survival, even as they diminish the capacity to enjoy the simple goods of life. Ultimately, the nothingness of evil is made more substantial than the goodness of the God Who Is.”

Murphy’s complete review of this series is meticulously thought out and thoroughly referenced. It is well worth a read.