Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Not Every Good Book is Great for Your Child

When I was a middle elementary child, all the girls were reading, Blubber and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., by Judy Blume. They were rather controversial and a bit scandalous for the times. I read them too, but not because my mother wanted me to. In fact I remember bringing Blubber home and having my mother take it and read it first, and then talking to me about the themes of the story. I think I honestly snuck the second book home and read it on the sly (I was a dream child like that).

Truthfully neither book is quite scandalous in comparison to other books published for children of today. Neither book is also commonly read by children today. But at that time, everyone was reading them, and they were not appropriate for all children. In context of popular books of today, and considering that so many books have low reading levels that include content appropriate for older teens, you often find a child who is capable of the text of a book, but not appropriately ready for the content. Young adult means young "adult" – teens and up.

Recently at Christmas, I observed several young children receive books for gifts (yeah!), but was a bit concerned when they showed me the titles. Great book, yes. Good for a 9 year old? No! Without going into lengthy discussion of what those titles were or what age I think particular popular titles are appropriate for, I will extol parents to be the guide with your child when they pick out literature. I believe a good librarian will also try to steer children into appropriately good books.
This past fall I read To Kill a Mockingbird with my fourteen-year old. One of my favorite books. He was at the perfect point to deal with the themes of the book, but I still flinched a bit in discussing the purported rape of Mayella Ewell (Atticus also "sighs" when Scout asks him what rape is). We read it together and it opened the door to some great conversations. I recently spoke with a parent of an eleven-year old that asked me if they thought this would be a good book for their child to read? Did I know their child could handle reading the text, yes, but I didn't think the content was appropriate for that age child. The best part though, was that the parent was thinking about what their child was reading, could read, and what they'd like for their child to read.

Parents are the gate keepers to their children's minds. You know what your standards are, and what you feel is appropriate for YOUR child. When in doubt, read it yourself to make an informed decision.

I'm saddened when I see the push for children to enter into the world of adults and adult issues and problems. The general shifting in young adult novels to stories of trauma, abuse, sex, violence, cursing etc. has become prevalent. Can't we allow children to remain children for awhile longer? There are so many WONDERFUL stories for children, let's choose some of these books for them to read first. Allow the older themed titles for when your children are older.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of the BEST blogs I have ever read. I agree completely. May I please reprint it and drop a few thousand leaflets out of an airplane?