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The O'Reilly Factor for Kids: A Survival Guide for America's Families    by Bill O'Reilly & Charles Flowers order for
O'Reilly Factor for Kids
by Bill O'Reilly
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Broadcast news journalist (and former schoolteacher) Bill O'Reilly offers his O'Reilly Factor for Kids to give teens 'an edge' in life. Though I haven't seen his TV program (our family gave up on television years ago, aside from watching series retrospectively on DVD), the author's voice comes confidently and clearly through his text. It's straight-talking, common-sense, no nonsense (and thankfully succinct) advice, in a been-there-done-that context. O'Reilly keeps it real by quoting relevant teen emails and instant messages, and by sharing his own youthful misdemeanors ('dumb mistakes').

There are four main sections to this 'survival guide' - 'People in Your Life', 'Your Private Life', 'Your School Life', and 'Things to Think About' - separated by Instant Message (IM) comparisons between 'Pinheads and Smart Operators'. For example, we hear that a smart operator knows the value of solitude, and that a pinhead spreads stories about others. O'Reilly advises teens to 'be who you really are', stand up for yourself and do the 'smartest' thing. He begins with how to recognize (and value) 'true friends'. Tips on seeing false friends clearly emphasize never accepting dishonesty or disloyalty.

On bullying, O'Reilly warns that stereotypes 'are for lazy people', tells us that 'bullies are cowards', that misery loves company, and that there are times when bullied or bystanders should confide in an adult. As a mother of teens, I appreciate his comment that parents are human too and that it's worthwhile trying to understand their point of view. There's a senesible list of reasons to try to handle sibling conflict well, and the value of compromise in family disagreements is highlighted. O'Reilly discusses the help that adults can give as mentors, but repeatedly warns kids away from those who are 'toxic' - 'Adults who don't act like adults are dangerous.'

O' Reilly warns against dehumanization of others, and shares his mantra that 'Sex is best when you combine sensible behavior with sincere affection.' Other topics include cigarettes ('Smoking is a scam'); handling of divorce, drugs and alcohol; watching television and listening to music (moderation!); enjoyment of healthy versus dangerous fun; handling the 'dressing game' at school; avoiding cheating; the benefits of sports and regular exercise; good teachers (value them) and bad ones ('shut up and get through it'). He addresses death, and also the human yearning to find meaning in religion. I appreciated the sensible discussion of self-esteem and competition. And on planning for the future, a quote from Abe Lincoln still makes sense today.

Much of what O'Reilly says is oriented to understanding who you really are, e.g. 'do not cross off something that you really like doing because you think someone else will think it's nerdy' (personally I believe nerdy rules!). There's advice on how to study and advocacy for the gift of reading, 'creative play for the mind'. A last IM emphasizes that 'life is tough, but is also full of adventure and joy.' O'Reilly presents clear and sensible messages from many different angles. I hope that The O'Reilly Factor for Kids will have the wide readership that it deserves amongst teens and adults, both at home and in school.

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