So here is the deal, everyone here at SMB has something which will set them off on a rant....as people have observed in our blog over the years. I have remained silent, well because I am a firm believer in not pushing what I believe on others. Usually.
However, there have been two news articles recently(ish) which have my head detonating like a nuclear explosion in a rant all over my fellow co-workers, (much to Fran's amusement). So much so I feel the need to share.....
Here’s the deal-io -- KIDS ARE SHORT, NOT STUPID.
Can I emphasize this one more time? SHORT NOT STUPID.
There was a recent study done which suggests that YA books should be given a ratings system (I am assuming it would work similar to movies), believing that a content warning on the back would “empower parents” click here for the link. Why, you ask, do they think this is a good idea? Because after studying the 40 YA books which have topped the NY Times bestseller list in 2008 they found 1,500 “bad words” in them.
By the way, I find it absolutely hilarious that they took George Carlin’s seven dirty words as a category in which to break down what was considered a “bad word”.
(Remember back to your school days, and the zing you felt when you used a “bad word”? Breaking the rules and defying authority just by saying a simple word! A word which your parents had no idea you said or knew because you would never ever use it around them? I can guarantee your kids know their fair share of naughty and notable words, they are just smart enough to not say them around you. Like I said, kids are smart.)
This rating system is absolute hogwash. For three reasons:
First, most YA books already have age guidelines on the back to help advise parent on what age the publisher believes the book is suitable for. If a parent can’t find it there, the Accelerated Reading (AR) program has similar recommendations. There are plenty of places a parent can go to find age-appropriate books for their kids.
I cannot tell you how often I hear this line working here, “My kid reads above his/her grade level, this book isn’t challenging enough for him/her”. This is where parents run into problems - they are purposely buying a book which is outside of their child’s maturity level then crying foul when they figure out what the book they bought is about, instead of listening to the bookseller who has ACTUALLY READ THE BOOK and tried to get you to purchase one which was more suitable.
Oh, and for the parents who walk into a B&N and can’t find anything for their kid? Try going to an Indie bookseller and ask us for a recommendation.
Second, books give kids a safe way to help make sense of the world around them. None of us like to think that something bad will happen to our kids. However we live in a world where sometimes they do. And if the worst should happen, don’t you think it would be better for your kid to be prepared for it? At least a little bit?
Books allow a safe way for them to explore hard facts of life without having to experience first hand. Books allow kids to form their own opinions (what a crazy thought, kids thinking for themselves!), so they know what to do when something bad does happen or to think “What would I do if this happened to me?”. All provided by a book which won’t leave scars that an actual experience would.
Books allow them to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Third, a rating system like this is a slippery slope. Would you then use the rules which apply to liquor stores to book stores? MIPB: a Minor In Possession of a Book? Where book stores get fined for selling underage kids books? Parents going to jail for providing books for their kids. Libraries or bookstores stocking only G rated books, giving kids the idea the world is populated by fairy godmothers, unicorns and rainbows. I know this seems farfetched -- however all it takes is small, baby steps for us to suddenly wake up one day and discover our right to free speech eroded away.
If there ever comes a time when kids are denied access to books based on age restrictions, which BTW are generally pretty arbitrary, you will find me standing outside my local bookstore with a sign saying--
WILL BUY BOOKS FOR MINORS.
That's my opinion, like it, love it or hate it . Don't really care it's my belief.
--And one last thing, since I am on a rant--
I am forever hearing parents say, “I don’t have anything to talk to my kids about.”. Well, here is a grand opportunity. If you have reservations about your kid reading a book? READ THE BOOK YOURSELF then talk with them about it. If you don’t think the book is appropriate for them (after you have READ IT) sit down and talk to them like a mature adult. Ask them to respect your opinion as their parent and trust them to follow your wishes.
And just because they start a book does not mean they will finish the book… on their own, your kid could think it was too violent, mature or just plain boring and stop reading it.
Finally, do not go to your local library and try to dictate to everyone else’s kids what they should read and try to get a book banned. Or hear a second hand review of a book and try and do the same thing. Other kids are not your responsibility, they have their own parents to take care of them.