Special thanks to the team at Halifax Learning for this great blog on whether or not we should be censoring what teens and tweens are reading!
Blood, sex, violence, suicide, self-harm? Where do you draw the line when you are trying to get your tweens and teens to read? Motivating children’s reading in an older child can be a challenge. But how far should parents go to achieve that goal? According to Meghan Cox Gurdon, in the Wall Street Journal, the content in today’s Young Adult (YA) novels is too dark and should be censored from our kids. Her article portrays a mother in a bookstore attempting to purchase a book for her thirteen year old daughter as a gift. The mother was disturbed by the books she found there and left without making a purchase. This article is just part of a recent frenzy on Twitter and around the blogosphere about censoring the books tweens and teens read. The New Yorker brings up an excellent point that this recent battle is not new. They reported on an article written in 1985 dealing with the same issue on YA novels becoming more graphic.
With experts, parents, the media, and the internet sounding off on the topic of censorship of YA books, each parent has to step back and consider where they stand and what their limits are when motivating children’s reading. The popularity of books such as the Twilight series, which deals with vampires, love, sex, and life, to the Harry Potter series, which deals with not only adolescent problems, but also witchcraft, parents may worry about what their children are reading. But those may seem like tame topics when considering some of the other books available in the YA section. Books that deal with such topics as self-mutilation in Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler or Shine by Lauren Myracle that deals with violence and homosexuality. While these topics may seem scary and distasteful, even for adults, should young adults be sheltered from them?
Motivating children’s reading is something most parents want to do for many reasons. One of those reasons may be to offer tweens and teens an opportunity to explore topics, learn about life, and experience things from the safety of a book. While some may say that reading about these dark topics can move a young adult to try things they wouldn’t have, or expose them to dangerous information, or even glamorize bad things, is it any safer to hide it from young adults? Keeping them from reading about unsavory things may not prevent them from happening any more than reading about them will increase their likelihood. However, knowing your child, monitoring what they are reading, and being certain they are mentally and emotionally ready to handle different topics before they tackle them may help keep them from being confused by what they read.
Creating an environment that is not only motivating to children’s reading, but also to discussion about what they are reading can help parents stay in tune with how their child is coping with what they are reading. It can also give parents an opportunity to share their ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. Tweens and teens often have trouble communicating with parents, especially on topics such as sex, drugs, self-esteem, bullies, friends, and other topics going on in their lives. Having discussions about the books they are reading on these topics can open doorways to conversations that otherwise might feel uncomfortable. Books can bring difficult topics to light.
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