Next … Melissa Caddell: Giving Moms the Scoop on Books
by Jean Blackmer
If you want to know more about the books your children are reading, Melissa Caddell is the mom who can give you the real scoop. Her website, bookalachi.com (pronounced book-ah-LA-chee and means “party, excitement, astounded, surprise”) provides reviews on children’s and teen books. Her purpose: to keep reading fun for kids and not surprising for adults.
The idea was inspired one morning at the public library when Melissa’s daughter, Cameron, came staggering toward her with her arms wrapped around a stack of books. Only visible above the stack was her red hair and below, her standard outfit of sneakers and jeans.
“Mom, can I read these?” Cameron asked.
“I didn’t know what to say,” Melissa explains. “I had no idea what all those books were about and knowing how sensitive she is to scary stuff, I needed to know before she read them. At the same time I was thrilled she was so excited about reading.”
Melissa started thumbing through the books to check out the content. She wished she had a resource to visit that would let her know more about the books her daughter wanted to read. Not a website that just gave summaries of the books, but a website where parents gave their opinions. So, when she got home she went online and started searching for a website with parents reviews of children’s books and found nothing. “I kept looking and hoping I wouldn’t have to do it myself,” she jokes.
But after finding no such website, she and her husband, Casey, decided to launch one: Bookalachi was born. It provides information parents want to know about the books their kids are reading. Her reviews give parents a heads-up on what their kids might encounter. Her goal is not to censor any books but flag issues that might raise concerns or topics to discuss with children.
“Our reviews are divided up into age ranges (4-17) and several categories: language, sexual content, alcohol/drugs, violence/disturbing, social/family, religious/spiritual. Basically, we examine popular children’s and teen books for content that parents might want to know their child is being exposed to.” For example, if a story involves the death of a grandparent or a pet, she will mention that in her review or if the story involves divorce or mentions abuse of alcohol that will be flagged.
She selects books with the help of a local librarian, who provides Melissa with the most frequently checked out children’s books. She also takes requests on her website and receives books from publishers.
“Remember, this is just information to inform the parents. You know your child best and can determine if the content will bother them or not,” she advises. “If you’re not sure, try having them read it until they find something that bothers them, and you will start to get a good idea of what to look out for.”
Melissa and her husband of 15 years, Casey, live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, where they are raising their three girls, Cameron (11), Madison (8) and Reece (4). Melissa was involved with Mountainview MOPS in Highlands Ranch and co-coordinated a pilot group for MOMSnext in the same area.
Melissa’s involvement in MOPS as a Coordinator, then in field leadership as a Council Coordinator helped build her confidence to launch her own business.
“MOPS helped me rediscover that part of me that got a little lost in mothering. I was reminded that I am a smart girl, I can do stuff,” she says.
Jean Blackmer is the Publishing Manager for MOPS International and author of Boy-sterous Living: Celebrating Your Loud and Rowdy Life with Sons. She lives in Colorado, with her husband and their three boys.