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Overturning the Tables

How congregations can protect children from consumerism

By Kylie Taggart

Overturning the Tables: Consumerism, Children, and the Church
By Julie Kinkaid
United Church Publishing House ($10.95)


It is so tempting to buy my children that plush bear at the dollar store for a treat, only to have it quickly forgotten. It is also all too clear how everything from boots to bandages are marketed to children. Overturning the Tables serves as an important reminder that consumerism and relentless marketing are destructive forces in our society.

Although I was aware of the general issues, Julie Kinkaid’s research filled in the gaps. She argues that marketing to children harms them in numerous ways, from promoting unhealthy eating to undermining their self-esteem.

Kinkaid isn’t shy about staking out her position. At times it feels like the sentences are being shouted through a megaphone. If the book were illustrated, it might depict evil marketers hunched over a bubbling cauldron readying it for the next pint-sized addition.

Kinkaid’s passion comes from a real place as a mother, grandmother and a former schoolteacher. Until her recent retirement, Kinkaid was also the Mission and Service Fund officer for The United Church of Canada.

The church takes a while to appear in this book. When it does, Kinkaid urges faith communities to address rampant consumerism for the sake of children. She reminds us that it takes a village to raise a child; the care and values expressed by faith communities are essential to countering consumerism.

What is refreshing about Overturning the Tables is the solutions it offers. Kinkaid provides concrete ideas on how congregations can take action against consumerism, such as participating in a Buy Nothing week or TV Turnoff week. Another suggestion is to host a turn-in event for violent toys and get a local artist to transform the toys into a sculpture.

Kinkaid also includes good parenting advice about how to teach children about advertising and the environmental and social cost of consumerism. She reminds parents not to use shopping as entertainment — get what you need and go home. She encourages parents to celebrate holidays and milestones with well-thought-out gifts but says parents should ensure children also understand the spiritual meaning behind holy days. She suggests teaching children about the needs of others by making a Giving Opportunities list. This could include donating outgrown clothes or volunteering at a food bank.

With summaries and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, the book is all ready for group study. The conversations sparked by this book would no doubt be passionate, fruitful and, hopefully, a step toward change. Kinkaid also lists further resources, such as documentaries and children’s books. 
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