Every year at Thanksgiving I trek into Barnes & Noble for an annual ritual of self-mortification. I go to the children’s section and glimpse the offerings for Thanksgiving. It never ceases to be a painful experience.

A friend of mine works in that section, stocking the latest catalogue of books that the corporate folks funnel in. I recall my first Thanksgiving conversation with her a few years back.

“How are the Thanksgiving books?” I asked.

“You don’t want to know,” she groaned. She found only one book that mentioned giving thanks to God.

“Really?” I responded. “Who are they giving thanks to?”

“Well,” she said vaguely. “They’re just thankful.”      

“’Thankful’ to whom?” I replied. She again emphasized: “They’re just thankful.”

I repeated the exercise this past Sunday. It was again agonizing. Among the books featured in the kids’ display: Five Silly Turkeys, How to Catch a Turkey, Where is Baby’s Turkey?

Notice a theme?

Of course, not all turkeys. One “Thanksgiving” book particularly caught my eye: Fangsgiving. Presumably a nod to the vampires involved in the pilgrims’ courageous endeavor.

Well, that isn’t Thanksgiving.

To be sure, I certainly have no objection to people being thankful. Gratitude is a good thing. During Thanksgiving at our family table, we take turns naming something were thankful for. But that must come after giving thanks first and foremost to God. God is the starting point. For Thanksgiving in America, that was the intent. That’s the lesson here, and should be the lesson especially in books for children provided by educators. If we’re teaching about Thanksgiving, how can we not teach that?

I was recently alerted to a Thanksgiving Day lesson at the website education.com, a go-to source for teachers. On the main page was a 60-minute lesson plan titled, “Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving.” “Thanksgiving offers an opportunity to teach young students about early days in the original colonies,” the plan informs us. “Students will discover the purpose and people involved in the first Thanksgiving.”

So far, so good. But read on.

The introduction instructs the teacher: “Call students together. Ask students to think about some of their favorite holidays and what they like to do on these holidays. Tell students that Thanksgiving is coming up. Ask students what some of their favorite Thanksgiving traditions are. Read Thanksgiving Day.”

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