Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rating YA Books

An article was published recently by U.S. News (and can be found here) that discusses the idea of rating YA books for content.

"Coyne thinks a ratings system on book jackets would help parents decide what's appropriate for their kids to read. It's a subject many are afraid to touch, with the talk of censorship or restricting books conjuring up images of book burnings and infringing on First Amendment Rights."

Content ratings, like age ratings, do nothing but take power away from the child. Children all grow and mature at different rates. What one 12 year old child is ready for may be completely inappropriate for another child the same age. By knowing your child, and having their interests and maturity and reading levels in mind, parents can help their children choose appropriate materials.

Kids and young adults will read what they are ready for. Does that mean that they are going to read books with profanity? Yes. Young adults use profanity. It's a fact of life. Teens swear and children talk about bodily functions. How they speak and what they talk about is reflected in their literature. Are these things going to stunt them for life? Probably not.

Maybe I'm biased because I grew up in a house where I was allowed to read whatever I wanted. I was never kept from reading something. If I wasn't ready for it, I would put it down and choose something else. And I think I grew up to be a rather well-adjusted individual.

Beth Yoke, YALSA's executive director, said it best, "Books can be a safe way for young people to explore edgier, sensitive, or complicated topics, and they provide parents the opportunity to help their teens grow and understand these kinds of sensitive issues."

By allowing children to choose, you open up the door for conversations about tough topics and issues that might not be discussed otherwise. And by talking with your children, you can let them know what is OK to read, and what topics should be avoided, at least for now. Just because the books aren't being read doesn't mean that their subject matter isn't happening in the real world. I would much rather have a child explore a topic by reading about it, especially the grittier aspects of life, instead of experiencing them firsthand. Allowing children access to books on tough subjects empowers them, opens their eyes to things that happen in the world, prepares them for the future, and shows that you trust and respect them.

There's a world of great books out there. Rating them would create a barrier to access and keep kids from learning about tough topics in a safe way.

Read and decide for yourself. This is only my opinion.