|Kids may come into contact with "strange" people in books.|
It’s funny, I always had the personal opinion about how I’d handle book reading with my own children. I know a lot about various books, whether from personal reading or synopsis and review reading. All this information is stored in the back of my mind and I have things sorted by category (genre/age group). Take Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White for example. I do know the book pretty well but what if I didn’t? I’d know it’s about animals and it’s for children. On the other end of the spectrum--Ellen Hopkins’ Crank. If I didn’t know this book, I’d categorize it as a coming of age novel featuring prominent drug usage and it’s for teens.
Then, at our garage sale, some friends stopped by and the one daughter (she’s about 14) bought three books. Her mom proceeded to say to me, “She loves to read, but I always worry about whether the books are appropriate for her age. It’s not like I can read all of them.” What she said kind of hit me later:
Most parents don’t know books like I do.
It has to be hard for parents nowadays to know what kind of books are age appropriate. Sure, they could read the synopsis on the back, but do they always tell you what the book is about? Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s vague. Sometimes it barely gives any relevant information at all. The cover doesn’t always portray what the content includes. You don’t know whether the book will contain swearing, drug use, or sex. You may get the impression that it’s a possibility, but it’s not always concrete. It’s not like movie ratings that specify what you’ll see if you watch it.
Which brings me to my next point: Ratings. It’s too bad there isn’t a system for rating books as to age appropriateness or content warning. I mean, even CD’s at least say Parental Advisory if it’s explicit. It would probably be pretty hard to put books into categories like that. I could list several books that would be rated R based on swear words alone. Add in all the books with the drug content and sex and you’ve got a huge stack of rated R books, and a slightly smaller stack of PG-13... and a tiny stack of PG, and a handful of G. Everything would be mass chaos.
I assured her mom I could recommend some age appropriate books for her daughter. That seemed to put her at ease. I have to say I’m glad I know as much as I do about books. If I didn’t, I would be at a loss, like a lot of parents seem to be these days.
Ever since my childhood friend had her baby, I’ve thought about how it would be to have children. What if my twelve year old son was reading Crank? I might worry about him experimenting with drugs. What if my thirteen year old daughter was reading Thirteen Reasons Why? I might worry about her relating to Hannah so much that she may justify suicide as an easy way to escape pain.
Simply put, being a parent would be scary. I can understand when parents are concerned about books. I wish they would take a step back and think about what banning a book means. Think about a basic plot in a typical dystopian for a moment: A society has strict regulations on simple life choices they deem shouldn’t be choices because of bad consequences that may happen. Book banning is like a dystopian society dictating how we should live. While it may prevent some bad consequences, they forget about what kind of influence movies, TV, music, and peers have on their children too.
This is why I love Banned Books Week. It’s a way to express personal thoughts and to understand all points of view. We may not all agree about a book being proper for an age group, but we do agree that banning is extreme. There needs to be a balance and a respect for others rather than a focus on our own agenda. It is good to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes though. A little understanding can go a long way to help the cause.