After the painstaking (and sometimes painful) process of creating children’s books that are theologically correct (our books have the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat) as well as age-appropriate, dealing with so momentous a subject as the human person, the manuscript finally goes to Kathryn Scharplaz for last-chance, drop-dead proofreading.
Kathy is a professional proofreader, part of the team that Ignatius Press retained to proof their conversion of the Ignatius Bible (Revised Standard Version—Catholic Edition) to large type. She took a standardized online spelling test as part of her credentials, and of the nearly 1 million freelancers who have taken that test, no one has yet beaten Kathy’s score.
With the eye of a hawk and a near-photographic memory, she’s simply the best at wordsmithing, always has been. In grade school, she represented Texas in the National Spelling Bee finals in Washington, DC. Twice.
As her work for TOBET draws to a close, with the last book of the curriculum going to print, I asked Kathy to share her impressions of the books she has been reading with such scrutiny.
The characteristics of The Body Matters that stood out most to Kathy were:
- Truth presented in all its beauty
- Excellence in art, language and production values.
The confluence of truth and beauty is the strength of Catholicism. The old Baltimore Catechism, in it’s Q&A format, presented absolute truth, but did not so much appeal to the sense of beauty.
The Body Matters, in Kathy’s opinion, gives children both.
from The Body and Reverence
Kathy also appreciated the deep Catholicity of the books. Each book, in every grade, comes back to Jesus and Mary, culminating in the Eucharist. Kathy noted that students will get the most important and beautiful truths of the Catholic faith through this series. She thinks The Body Matters is basically the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in a nutshell.
from The Body As Sacrament
Kathy saw the fingerprint of the Holy Spirit in every book. Truth was presented in such a child-friendly, finely-tuned way, that she could not imagine humans alone could have gotten it so perfectly. Kathy herself has raised two sons, and is keenly aware of what appeals to children at different ages.
She noted Piaget’s stages of intellectual development, and that the books were properly geared toward the different stages of child development. For example, children advance from the merely concrete, and begin to able to reason abstractly and symbolically around ages 11-12, so the sixth grade book, The Body Reveals God, begins to abstract truths about God from a reading of the human body.
From The Body Reveals God
Kathy had trouble picking a favorite, since after each book, she was prone to say, “This is the best one yet!” She echoed a line that many people utter when they encounter the theology of the body for the first time: “If I’d learned this when I was younger, it would have changed my life.”
That very sentiment is at the heart of what we are trying to do with The Body Matters: give children this life-changing material early in their education.
Kathy was surprised that she, as a well-read, well-catechized adult still learned things in the books that were, nevertheless, appropriate to the targeted age group. Each time, she would think, “I should have learned this as a child.” She believes that any Catholic of any age could pick up any one of the books, and read something to their benefit.
To encapsulate the whole series in one line, she said it was the sense of sacredness conveyed in the books.
Our contemporary culture is, to a great extent, anti-sacred: persons are commodities, more or less valuable according to their age, power, financial status, and not unique or a reflection of God. The prejudice against the sacred is in the air we breathe, and contaminates the way children approach family, faith and their futures.
Children who are formed by The Body Matters from an early age will have a huge head-start over the rest of their generation, Kathy believes. Imbued with this sense of the sacred, they will enter high school with a gut-level instinct of the reverence due other human beings and themselves, which will inform their later understanding of sexuality and family life. When taught to a cohort of students, it will provide children with friends who also have a sense of the sacred. A child with the benefit of this Catholic vision of life will not feel alone.
The Body Matters could create a TOB generation… and one generation can change the world.
Sheryl Collmer writes for TOBET from Irving, Texas. In the spirit of transparency, it must be said she is related to Kathy Scharplaz. This, however, had no bearing on the superlative terms in which she described her sister.