Posted by: Deborah Drezon Carroll | June 15, 2010

What should kids read?

This morning I overheard a mom and daughter (age 7) at the library. Genevieve wanted to read a certain book. Mom had objections. She told her daughter the book wasn’t appropriate for her age and made her choose another. I wondered what book that a 7-year-old could read would be one her mom wouldn’t want her to read. I never had to censor any reading material from my girls and now I’m wondering if that was something I should have paid more attention to.

As a teacher I used, “Rule of Thumb” in helping my students choose books. You open a book, and read one full page. Beginning with your pinky, you raise one finger for each word you encounter that you don’t know. If you hit your thumb before you finish the page, the book is likely going to be too hard and maybe too frustrating to read.

My daughters were good readers. Shira and Alexis always loved reading and Tamra came around eventually. (Note to moms: if you child doesn’t love reading in elementary school, don’t sweat it. Just keep offering fun reads and eventually, they are likely to embrace reading if you do.) I never worried about what they read. My parents never censored me and I just went with that same philosophy. What are some parents worried about? Is it that books could be too sexy? Too violent? How could they be more violent than the games and TV shows. And, sex-wise, I think it’s not so bad if your child learns a bit from books. Maybe it’s easier to read than to ask questions at a young age. I read “Peyton Place” when I was 12 and it was a great education. I couldn’t ask my mom about anything sensitive so I read a somewhat racy book to find out a bit about what the hype was about. Was that bad?

Should we be censoring what children read? And what exactly are we protecting them from?

Alexis Writes:

Censorship is tricky. I don’t think we should be denying any interest our child has in reading. Many of my students enjoy reading non-fiction texts and some of the information in them could be considered gross or violent but because it’s informational we allow, even encourage it. The only thing I could see someone censoring is pornography (I don’t care what anyone says about the articles).

Many of the parents I encounter are always having issues with levels of texts. They are concerned that if a book is too easy for their child they’re not challenging them and they won’t become a good reader. On the flip side some of them are worried when their children want to read books that can be challenging that they will be too hard and won’t achieve success. I definitely read things behind my mother’s back that I’m not sure she knew about. I had a friend who had a bunch of those V.C. Andrews books. Very sexy and violent and I don’t think she would have wanted me to read them. However, I think if reading some trashy books was the biggest form of rebellion I could have done I’m sure an adult would pick that.

I think the bottom line is your kids are probably going to be exposed to some things you won’t want them to be so the best thing to do is keep an open dialogue. I was never told not to read the books but once I did I could tell my mom probably wouldn’t have allowed them in our house (I could be wrong). They were really gross.

Mom writes:
You know what? I probably wouldn’t have forbid you to read them if I had known. But, I also would likely have read one myself just to see what you were up to. But, I suspect that if I given the okay, you might not have enjoyed them as much. Rebellion is ever so much more fun when it’s kind of sneaky.

Shira writes:

I don’t really see the difference between censoring books and censoring TV. There are some pretty gross books out there. Just look at the effect the Twilight Saga has had.

Mom writes: The thing I don’t know is this — is there a difference between censoring what our kids read and censoring what they watch? We didn’t censor books in our family but we did censor movies and TV. Not sure why.

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  1. I never censored what my daughters read. (I still don’t know why they had to read Frankenstein in school.) I DID censor their TV shows and movies. They still laugh about how I wouldn’t let them watch “Three’s Company,” and how tame that was compared to what is on TV today! My daughter with the 4 children did question her 8-year-old son’s choice of books when he started reading the “Captain Underpants” series. (P.S. I also read Peyton Place when I was 12… under the covers with a flashlight!)

  2. Yes, if only we could return to the innocence of those times when “Three’s Company” was racy! And, thanks for the fond memory of the “under the covers with a flashlight” reading. I had forgotten but I did that too.

  3. Alexis wrote, “I think the bottom line is your kids are probably going to be exposed to some things you won’t want them to be so the best thing to do is keep an open dialogue.” What she wrote can be applied across the board with all choices that a kid might face.

  4. Yeah but I think she makes it easier than it sounds. That open dialogue needs to go two ways and sometimes one of the parties doesn’t want to talk, you know? Thanks for participating in the discussion, though.

  5. I read almost everything before my daughter reads it. Luckily we’re both voracious readers. The reason I do is when she was about 8 I bought a book on king Arthur I thought would be neat and read it first (just because) and it had a violent rape scene in it. Thank God I did. It was rated for ages 8+. Also I threw a fit last year because they were reading “The Hunger Games” in 7th grade. I thought it was a great book but so violent and didn’t see a point relevant to what the teacher was trying to teach. She’s never read the Twilight books, I told her she could when she turned 13 but she’s said now she doesn’t want to get “Edward crazy” like her friends! 🙂 If she asked I’d probably read a book with her.

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