‘Excellent and Beautiful’ – Classic Books For Catholic Kids
Paul Pagano, along with his wife Anna, run a small bookstore out of their home. They started it last year when they realized that their collection of classic children’s books, which they began for their own young family, was something they felt compelled to share with others. What sets the Paganos apart from the myriad of online Catholic booksellers is that Catholic Children’s E-Book are ultra-specialized; they sell only E-books for children and young adults. In this exclusive Regina Interview with Bridget Green, Paul answers questions about how their company came to be and why it’s important that it keeps going.
Bridget Green: I know that you are a homeschooling family. What drew you to that lifestyle? How long have you been at it?
Paul Pagano: We were drawn to homeschooling out of necessity. I am an advocate of Catholic schools in theory, but, unfortunately, there is a lack of Catholic identify and fidelity at many local schools. We have been homeschooling for three years and currently have two children of school age and two little ones as well. We are more convinced each passing year that it was the correct decision for our family.
BG: Did homeschooling lead to the creation of Catholic Children’s E-books?
PG: Homeschooling did not directly lead to the creation of Catholic Children’s E-books. Having children and wanting good beautiful books for them led us to collect Catholic Children’s books. Many of these are rare and long out of print. This eventually led to the creation of Catholic Children’s E-books, so we could share this beautiful heritage with as many Catholic families as possible.
Many Catholics parents have a difficult time finding books for their children and teens at the library or bookstore, because there are few books currently being produced that reflect Catholic morals and virtues. We believe that parent after parent will breathe a sigh of relief when they see a whole collection of books that they can offer their children and trust completely.
BG: What came first, the collection of books or the online store?
PG: I am a book lover and like nothing more than quietly reading a book. When our first child was born, our family expanded its collection to include children’s books. We have purchased Catholic books from around the country for our children. The online store is an effort to share rare and wonderful Catholic books with other families.
BG: I consider myself fairly well read and yet I haven’t heard of many of the titles you offer. How did you learn about them yourself?
PG: Book collecting is a bit like an avalanche. With every new Catholic author, publisher, or series that is discovered, many books are ultimately found. During the first half of the 20th century, Catholic readers were a demographic pursued by most major publishers. Catholic wanted Catholic books and publishers gave it to them. My favorite old publisher is Benziger Brothers. They produced over 200 Catholic Children’s novels about 100 years ago. The advertisements in the back of their books has been the source for learning of dozens of books which we are now digitizing.
BG: Have you read all of the books yourself? Have your children read them?
PG: Every book on the website has been read by me and at least one other member of the family. I read every book for two reasons. First, to make sure the book meets with my approval in content, and second, so I can speak about the books and recommend particular titles when parents ask for my advice. My children have read many of the books and are always excited when I add a new title to their e-reader.
BG: How has reading books such as the ones you sell affected your children?
PG: The books aren’t only for our children’s entertainment. We discuss the books and talk about the events and characters. They tell us what they found exciting, who was the bad guy and all about the main character or hero. The books provide positive and beautiful reading, that fosters excitement for the Faith and for virtue. They also help us encourage reading without exposing our son and daughters to much of the dangerous literature available for children.
BG: Your prices are very reasonable. Is that an important part of your mission or vocation?
PG: Our goal is to get these books into the hands of as many Catholic families as possible. We are, of course, growing a business, but we believe these books should be fairly priced so that all Catholic families can benefit from these wonderful works.
BG: I notice that you give warning, in at least one place, of a book that mentions the “secret of Santa.” As a mother, I appreciate this. What made you decide to include warnings like that in your descriptions?
PG: The warning started with me asking questions to my wife about the response she thinks moms will have to certain issues that arise in books. I want parents to be happy with their selections so they visit our website again. I realize parents can’t read every book they download for their children, so, as a Catholic, I try to be clear about the content and age appropriateness of each book.
BG: I know you have a soft spot for the books penned by a small group of Jesuit priests in the early part of the last century. Why is this? What makes these books necessary, in your opinion, for the young men of today?
PG: Five Jesuit priests wrote a combined over 100 books (primarily for boys) in the early 20th century. Many times, it is made clear by the authors that they are writing because they see a destruction of boyishness, which will lead to the destruction of real manliness.
They were saying this before World War I. It took the world another 50-75 years to catch up and see that we have a “boy” problem. These priests were convinced that boys were not being taught to be noble, hardy, honest, hard-working, and tough.
They believed that boys not taught these things would grow into weak men, and I believe they were right. They wrote their books to combat this and I love them for it. These books are the works I am most excited about digitizing.
BG: That sounds like something Cardinal Burke would approve of. There are books on your site for children of a wide age range. What age group do you think can most benefit from the books you offer?
PG: While I have many books for young children (age 6-8), the books that I believe are most relevant are the works for ages 10 to 18. There are still many fine books available for little children, but sadly, the best that can be said about many new books intended for pre-teen and teen audiences is that they are “safe”. It is sad that we have to worry about what is “safe” rather than what is excellent, but that is what is currently available for children. We want boys and girls, and young men and young ladies, to have excellent and beautiful works available to them, not books that are barely “safe”.
BG: What is the one thing you wish people knew about your company?
PG: There are a few things I would like to address here. The most important is that it is a family-to-family business. We are a Catholic family serving other Catholic families. Next, the books themselves are beautiful, exciting, and full of adventure and virtue. They clearly intend our Catholic faith to be fully integrated in our lives and worldview, rather than being one component that we keep distinct from the other aspects of our lives.
Editor’s Note: You can find Catholic Children’s E-Books at various US homeschooling conferences throughout the year, and at these locations: