Booking Through Thursday: Age-Inappropriate

VitruvianThis week’s Booking Through Thursday question asks, “In contrast to last week’s question—What do you think of censoring books BECAUSE of their intended age? Say, books too ‘old’ for your kids to read?”

I am the parent of three children, aged 17, 10, and 8. I think some books are beyond their reading level. I can’t think of anything I would tell my 17-year-old daughter she couldn’t read. She has a good head on her shoulders. She is smart enough to know that book characters don’t necessarily make good choices. I imagine she has been exposed to just about whatever she might read in other media, such as online images and video, movies, TV, and the like. Plus, she’s just a bit younger than 18, after which point I don’t know how to tell her what to read when she is a legal adult, responsible for her actions. On the other hand, there are some things I wouldn’t let my 10-year-old read if she wanted to—mostly adult books with themes and content that I would rather she not see until she’s older. I try not to shield her too much from reality, but she is also a child, and I want her to stay a child for little longer. My son is the one I have to watch. He can find and read just about anything he wants, so I do try to make sure it’s appropriate for his age, although if I am honest, I think he has seen things (particularly videos online) that are not appropriate for age (not talking about pornography—just cartoon violence like on South Park). In terms of reading, it’s not about level, it’s more about content.

However, when the younger ones become teenagers, when they reach middle school, I hope they will turn to books to explore difficult subjects, such as abuse, racism, death, hunger, and the like. I think books are a good, safe way to live in someone else’s shoes. I would rather they read about rape or eating disorders from Laurie Halse Anderson than experience it themselves. I would rather them read about racism in [amazon_link id=”B003VYBQPK” target=”_blank” ]Huckleberry Finn[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id=”0061743526″ target=”_blank” ]To Kill a Mockingbird[/amazon_link] than perpetrate stereotypes or hatred themselves.

photo credit: Mr.Enjoy

7 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Age-Inappropriate

  1. Choosing books for middle schoolers is tricky. One kids may be mature enough to handle a book that includes sex while the kid next door still giggles at the same scene. The same is true for language. Some kids can recognize a word as suitable in the text by not in class, while another will point the word out to all neighbors without considering why the author used it.

    I can't always think of it in terms of what I would let my child read, since not all parents share my same views and other than extreme elements (i.e. the parent who refused to let her son learn anything about the Holocaust), it isn't my job to try to circumvent their wishes.

    1. Teaching books is a different matter. I focused on my own children. But you are right about different maturity levels, and I think parents have to decide whether their children can handle certain sensitive material and at what age. At the same time, it's no good to hide them from reality and pretend humanity doesn't have a darker side.

  2. I'm curious — have you ever told your kids to wait a few years to read something, because you love the book in question and you want them to love it too and they'll love it better when they're a little older? (That was always my mother's reason for not letting us read stuff.)

    1. I haven't had to, but if I felt that way, I would definitely say to wait. My kids have pretty much just been interested in reading books at their age level so far.

  3. As a teenager, I was given free run of the library and read what I wanted. I remember my mother trying to warn me off of Portnoy's Complaint at age 16, which made me want to read it more. Interestingly, the content did her job for her: I didn't read much of it. But I remember having very frank discussions about Steinbeck novels with my parents when I was in middle school which defined our relationship in some way.

      1. I agree. I have a stack of books behind my desk that I would have no problem giving to a 16 or 17 year old, but that I require a note for my 13 year old students. "Crash" was the big one this year. Great novel, but too graphic to give to many young students.

        I also think there is a difference between having a book available and recommending a book. I give huge credit to MS media specialists who make that call every time they place a book order.

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