Would you censor your own child's reading?

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Would you censor your own child's reading?

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Maio 19, 2008, 6:14am

A question that has become more pertinent since I actually had a child! I always remember how phenomenally cross I was (and still am) with my parents for the one occasion that they did return a feminist-esque book to my friend's mother without letting me read it when I was nine. I was angrier that I didn't get to make my own mind up about it than I was about the action of returning. Unusual for them as bookshelves were never off-limits. I've come to the conclusion that there's actually nothing at all that I would censor from my daughter's reading but I think that I would rather discuss what I didn't like about it with her afterwards.

What do the rest of you think?

Maio 19, 2008, 6:47am


I would return a book I considered risqué to a parent who had not asked my permission. If my child still wanted to read the book, we would openly purchase it or go to the library. If a book is worth reading then one should acknowledge it. I do not feel one should provide reading material to a child without a parent’s permission. It is not up to me to decide what someone else’s child should read.

Thirty years ago a Michigan library refused my twelve-year-old daughter permission to check out a book. I think it might have been something by Harold Robbins. When she told me about it, I went to the library where they informed me his books were kept behind the counter and only given to adults by request. I explained we did not censor and I wrote a note, which was placed on file allowing her to check out all books.

Over fifty years ago, having read most of the books in the children’s section of the public library, and too young for an adult card, my mother gave me hers. The librarians knew the books were for me to read, but they never said a thing. Oh the pleasure of Ayn Rand, Dostoevsky, Leon Uris, James Fenimore Cooper, and Ian Fleming.

I would never deny my child the wonder of reading.

Editado: Maio 19, 2008, 8:22am

It would depend on the situation and the book.

If my 12-year-old brought home a book by Chuck Pahluniak, I'd probably insist on reading it first and then explain why I'd prefer he wait a few years before reading it.

Putting a wholesale ban on books, however, often just drives kids to the library with their friends to "look up the dirty parts." Then your ability to provide guidance and formative opinion is totally lost.

I think you have more to worry about with kids who have computers and Internet access in their rooms, where they can look up porn and some pretty awful things on youtube.

My son told me about one of these episodes, which apparently took him out of his own comfort zone. I told him he was right to get the creeps and we talked about the child sex trade, abuse of women, commodification of sex, etc. etc.

And the other kid's mother got a "just wanted you to know" call from me.

I keep the computer in the living room. My kid can look up anything he wants, but that way I know what it is and can do damage control if he runs into something weird.

Maio 19, 2008, 11:24am

As a school librarian, I was pretty familiar with the books my daughter read. When she was in 4th grade, she picked up Go Ask Alice. I told her she would understand it better when she was older, and to put it back. Evidently she trusted me, because she didn't argue. She did read it in 6th or 7th grade and I didn't object. I just think there are some books better left to certain levels of understanding. The Giver is another I would suggest waiting a bit on if I felt my child wasn't ready for it.

Maio 19, 2008, 2:34pm

I think saying "censor" isn't really the right word. Especially when it comes to books.

If my ten-year-old wanted to read Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, I'd step back and have to go, "is this really age appropriate?" It's not about being able to read the book, it's about being able to contextualize it.

Now, this is my fictional ten-year-old, but this is based on years of volunteering with children every other Saturday. What I find interesting is the vehement defense of books that may not be age-appropriate. At the same time, what would one say (this is true!) to the seven-year old I chatted with that listed Thirteen Ghosts and Freddie vs. Jason as her favorite movies. Or the mother that left me with her six-year-old watching the original Chucky (before he went all camp) because it was "her favorite movie."

It's not about censoring, it's about age-appropriate reading experiences. Would I tear Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret from the hands of a nine-year old? Absolutely not. But just as poster #4 mentioned, I certainly would put off Go Ask Alice or as #3 mentioned, Choke from the approved reading list for a while.

Kids that read or watch TV far beyond their years aren't doing it because they're smart. They do it because it gets a reaction from adults and they're simply not equipped to process things the same way as someone with more than 10 years of living under their belts.

Sure, there will always be kids that do this and will be perfectly fine. Then there will be (another true story) the children that are 9 who aren't allowed to come back to the play area due to repeated inappropriate Barbie play that they basically picked up because they're being exposed to sexually explicit material (basic daytime TV in that case) they can't really compartmentalize properly.

My 2 cents. =)

Maio 19, 2008, 2:37pm

I would absolutly try to steer my child away from certain books. When I grew up, it was understood that some books are "high shelf" books-as I grew taller, I was deemed old enough to read them. Nothing was ever flat-out banned (though my mother confided in me later that she would have put her foot down with The Turner Diaries if those ever showed up). But I was always given free reign in my reading and was piled up with great books that were right up my alley, so it was a while before I veered off into the more risque books. When I came home with V.C. Andrews' books in the 9th grade, I was allowed to read them. I guess my mom thought if I was willing to read through all the plot for the few pages of sex, it was worth it. LOL.

I follow the same guidelines with my son. There are some books he does not need to have access to now and for a long time. In fact, I have a few books my mother is banned from reading (my Forensic pathology textbook key among them) because I knew she wouldn't like the subject material or the images.

The line between juvenile/YA and adult books is getting quite blurry. Mary mentioned The Giver-that's a great story, but it's also a bit shocking and powerful, so I would want to use my understanding of my child's maturity to decide whether or not to steer away from it.

Every parent has the right to tell their child not to read something-heck, I encourage it. It makes the kids curious enough to seek them out and read them. But I always respect my friends' wishes before giving their children certain books. I didn't give my very Christian friends' 10 year old The Golden Compass, for instance. Because of this, I am always asked to give books for Christmas. And I'm the one who gets to pick out the perfect anatomy books for the kids-finding a nice balance in the sex-ed section of the books is difficult.

Editado: Maio 19, 2008, 2:48pm

Absolutely not. I was never told that I couldn't read a book or that I had to wait, except for once when my parents wanted me to wait a couple of months until an elementary school reading program was over because reading 1000+ page Don Quixote would only count for one book when I could be reading ten 100 page books. There were books that I wasn't allowed to take to school lest they fall into the hands of children whose parents wouldn't approve, though.

I learned how to act and morality from my parents; books taught me not to judge people with different standards harshly, not to change mine. If I had a child who wanted to read a book that I had reason to believe might give her a wrong idea about the world, I'd let her and then encourage her to read other books with a more realistic perspective. The way to counter bad information is with good information, not with censorship.

Maio 19, 2008, 2:57pm

So far I haven't come across a reason to bar my child from reading a book. She still prefers Babysitter's Little Sister books and Judy Moody. I try and extend her choices out, but for now, I won't say no to a book.

I imagine that in the next couple of years I'll have to watch what she chooses more carefully. When that happens, I'll decide whether to take the 'wait until you are older' approach or the 'let's read it together so I can make sure you understand' approach.

Maio 19, 2008, 5:57pm

I am jealous of all the above posters whose parents allowed them to learn and grow from books without limits and within reason. You could have grown up with my mother, who wouldn't allow me to read anything about 'ghosts' or 'magic.' Also, once, in 5th grade some girl gave me about 100 Sweet Valley High books she didn't want anymore, and my mother took them away, saying they were too "advanced" for me, and actually burned them. Also, in 6th grade, I was in gifted studies and everyone was going to read The Witch of Blackbird Pond and my mother insisted they make an exception for me, so I had to read Johnny Tremain by myself. Of course, I checked out The Witch of Blackbird Pond from the school library, and read it, and told her it wasn't even about a real witch, so after that, she got the school librarian to print out a list of the books I'd checked out every month from then on and I got in trouble if there was anything on it that wasn't 'approved.' As I got older, I had to keep my 'trashy romance novels' in a foot locker that I got from a garage sale so that those didn't disappear into the incinerator. Actually, I don't think I would have been as inclined to read things that weren't allowed had she not been so hardcore against them.
If I ever have kids, they will be allowed full access to the library, with the understanding that we discuss the book afterwards if I feel there might be material that is too "advanced."

Maio 19, 2008, 6:03pm

I have no problem telling my 11 year old son that he doesn't need to read Trainspotting just yet.

It's not censorship, it's parenting.

Editado: Maio 19, 2008, 6:07pm

Of course, but gently.

My biggest concern with books for my kids are not of the traditional censoring kind - excessive violence, graphic sexual content, offensive language. The kids aren't naturally attracted to any of them, and usually pointing out that a book has one of those three things will result in the rejection of the book by the child. And they know steering them away from a particular book isn't a prohibition for all time. They've all got TBR lists as long as mine, so it can just go down on the pile to read in a few years.

Instead, the biggest concern is that they stretch themselves but not overstretch - I think too many kids linger in YA when they could read some real classics instead, while at the same time a premature reading of something truly overwhelming, like Moby Dick or Ulysses, can ruin the book for a long time.

Maio 19, 2008, 6:12pm

From MerryMary: "I told her she would understand it better when she was older." I think that is the right approach. But if my child insisted, I would want to talk with her about the book. That is, if I had children. But as I'm getting to that place in my life when having children is probably within the next 5-10 years, I've considered this questions many times.

What strikes me is the contrast between my immediate "Never!" when asked if I would ever deny my child the opportunity to read a book and "Most likely" when asked if I'd ever deny my child the opportunity to see a movie. But then, I'd never hesitate to take my child to see Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.

I recognize the inconsistencies of these reactions but still feel, at some deep level, that certain works of art, by virtue of their medium, are more appropriate than others. Or maybe I'm just disgruntled from a less-than-literary childhood.

Maio 19, 2008, 6:28pm

That's not inconsistent. It's not unusual for a child to be bothered by a movie but not by the book the movie is based on.

Maio 19, 2008, 6:37pm

But then, I'd never hesitate to take my child to see Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.

Do you mean the Julie Taymor version? That gave me nightmares - and this is coming from someone that owns uncut versions of horror, prefers the violent side of the Coen Brothers and chose to see this on purpose because it is one of the most underdone of Shakespeare's plays. (It was also one of the best inside jokes in Shakespeare in Love that they lobbed up - if you remember the kid torturing the cat telling William that Titus was his favorite play.)

Honestly, I don't know what the Disney people did to poor Julie, but it was really really bad. Really bad.

Of course she has that talent for doing things that are both repulsive and beautiful at the same time. Maybe that's the problem...you want to look away, but it's too beautiful...

Maio 19, 2008, 7:32pm

Fleela said: It's not censorship, it's parenting.

Here! Here!

It's up to individual parents to set limitations for their own children. I would strongly object to my son reading American Psycho, The Turner Diaries, or Trainspotting before he was 15 or so. But I would never dream of saying your kid can't read them.

Maio 19, 2008, 8:02pm

kaelirenee - Exactly! You and fleela have expressed it perfectly.

Maio 19, 2008, 8:06pm

You know what book I wish had been 'parented' away from me? The Color Purple. I can't remember how old I was when I read it, but I do know that I wasn't ready to handle the violence, especially the rapes, that are a part of that story. To top it off, I didn't know how to discuss it with my mother, so I sort of struggled to understand it on my own.

Maio 20, 2008, 12:21am

the same thing happened to me with The Color Purple, actually. i was *much* too young to read it....it's interesting though, if my wacky older cousin hadn't steered me towards it, i'd never have read it. i was on summer vacation at my aunt's house and she had a copy sitting on her shelf. the rapes were too much for me. i understood what was happening. but...i didn't really *get* the book. and the drug references escaped me completely. and, this was my first exposure *ever* to homosexuality. i mean, *ever.* i read it again when i was 17 and then i really appreciated it. however, even though i was too young, reading it didn't do any damage to my psyche. in fact i remember really enjoying and
appreciating the part where Celie has her religious awakening. anyway, it didn't do me any harm. i think it was good for me to struggle with a difficult book that dealt with heavier issues than, you know, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle or something. I read Julius Caesar to early, as well, but that just bored me to tears so i gave up halfway. then i read it again in high school and liked it a lot. i read titus andronicus that same year, and i didn't like it. i've never seen a movie version, though....i guess the bottom line is, my parents never censored my reading material, and i turned out o.k. they controlled my movies a bit, though. but it was never "you can't see it" it was more like "you can see it in a few years" and i never fought it and in the past couple of years i have seen all the movies they postponed and they were all really good. (A Clockwork Orange stands out as a favorite.)

Maio 20, 2008, 4:27am

Interesting comments one and all. Made me think. I think I was only really considering books that I might have an idealogical objection to. kaelirenee &
Fleela have hit the nail on the head for me, I think. I'm sure that there'll be an age when I decide that my daughter is old enough for their to be no limits to the books that she reads and I reckon that that's personality-dependent for a lot of children. I can't see that I'd be sitting there with my seven-year-old discussing American Psycho just as right now I think the Simpsons are OK but my husband doesn't get to watch Robot Chicken while the kiddiwink is in the room! I think, at least I hope, that growing up in house as full of books as ours is, there will be such an interesting choice of books that are age-appropriate in content that the issue won't arise until she's old enough to have few limits.

Maio 20, 2008, 10:53am

There is age appropriate and child appropriate. I believe a parent should be the one to make a decision concerning a child’s reading selection. An individual child’s reading choices will generally reflect that family’s lifestyle and belief system. Children of parents who rarely leave their community except for amusement park vacations compared to those who wilderness backpack from infancy or others who travel historic trails and weekend at museums or the Smithsonian will usually differ dramatically in reading tastes. Children of practicing Christians reading choices usually differ from say Unitarians or even an Atheist family.

The amount of time and the type of volunteer and community service a family performs affects a child’s ability to understand various philosophical concepts. A child’s innate intelligence coupled with education – home school, public, private, Montessori - is part of what determines ability to read and comprehend. Only children or whether first or last can affect if a certain book is appropriate for a child.

It’s wonderful to see so many answer this post in such a logical way. All seem to agree that a parent should be the one to handle this issue.

Maio 20, 2008, 11:04am

#20 muzzie:

>It’s wonderful to see so many answer this post in such a logical way

Maio 20, 2008, 6:59pm

I can only remember one time when my parents told me I couldn't read a book, and I promptly forgot about it and started reading something else. I have to say, I think I have a problem with calling it censorship when parents limit what their children read. Parents are responsible for the development of their children, and that requires protecting them from things they're not ready for (althought Lily, I think your mom might have, um, overreacted?). I have no children, but if I did, I would certainly protect them from some books, just as I would protect them from movies like the "Saw" and "Hostel" series, or other movies from the torture porn genre.

One comment I hear a lot from people is that if kids read something that's too old for them, they won't understand it anyway, so what's the harm? The harm is that there are a lot of ways to misunderstand something. Young children tend to interpret things in a very literal way and once an idea gets in their heads it sticks around for a while, which can make it difficult to explain to them why they're *not* going to be snatched out of their beds (or some other horrible thing), even though they read about it happening to some other kid. Cue nightmares, etc.

That being said, *no one* has the right to tell a child who is not their own what they are not allowed to read.

PS: If there are typos or anything, I blame my dialated eyes. Sorry.

Maio 20, 2008, 9:55pm

I have three daughters, aged 6, 8 and 15, and, based on this, and my own personal experience, I believe kids should be able to read whatever they want to read ... my oldest had read Palahniuk and books like A clockwork orange by the time she turned 14 ... she seems okay to me ... it's not so much about something being AGE appropriate, as it is being appropriate for an individual child's maturity level ... I'm having trouble getting this out right, but I mean, how many 8 year olds are going to want to read a book like American Psycho all the way through? If someone can find me a kid who really wants this, and can do it, and does it, then he/she can probably handle reading it.

Maio 21, 2008, 2:18pm

>22 AngelaB86:

if kids read something that's too old for them, they won't understand it anyway, so what's the harm?

The thing is, I remember how it worked when it was me. I was reading Dave Barry when I was seven, and back then he wasn't writing children's books. The first one of his that I asked my parents to buy for me was The Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need (never read anything of his before at the time, it just looked funny). They did, and I read the whole thing. There's a bit that references having a vibrator in one's carry-on luggage when it goes through security. I had no idea what the heck a vibrator was, but I didn't care that much because it wasn't terribly important and just went on with the book. I imagine if there was a significant enough part of the book that was over my head that I couldn't just read around it, I'd have stopped reading it, as is suggested in >23 KromesTomes:, but I wouldn't know as I never actually managed to pick up anything only to decide I didn't like what I got myself into.

Maio 21, 2008, 4:00pm

What I worried about with my daughter was the pictures put in her head, in perfectly understandable language, that she wasn't ready for. Some might say that one can never learn too early about man's inhumanity to man - but too many graphic details at too young an age trouble me.

Maio 21, 2008, 4:31pm

re: #23, "How many 8 year olds are going to want to read a book like American Psycho all the way through? If someone can find me a kid who really wants this, and can do it, and does it, then he/she can probably handle reading it."

Hmm, if my kid had asked to read American Psycho at age 8, I'd at least have asked him why.

And, no, I would not assume that if he really wanted to read it and made it all the way though, then he could probably handle it.

Where I'd draw the line is telling you that YOU that you can't let YOUR 8-year-old read "American Psycho."

But if you did, I probably wouldn't let my kid play at your house.

Maio 21, 2008, 6:03pm

My thirst for adult reading happened at age eleven when we read Treasure Island in the sixth grade. Up to that point Nancy Drew and books by Louisa May Alcott satisfied. A Tale of Two Cities assigned eighth grade reading at age thirteen was decidedly violent. Classroom discussion about what occurred and the reasons for the revolution required quite a bit of moral, ethical, and philosophical understanding on the part of the teacher and students. My grandchildren inform me that young people are more mature that I was, fifty years ago at age fourteen.

I am sure there are eight year olds with the ability to read and understand a book at any level, I would only hope that child’s parents are able to direct and monitor reading choices based on ability and age.

Maio 21, 2008, 6:59pm

lilyfyrestorm, I totally understand.

My parents are Muslim; my sister had a Jewish friend in middle school with whose parents my parents were friends. My parents joined forces with them to fight against The Bronze Bow. My sister and her friend ended up reading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle instead. It was ridiculous to me then and is still to me now.

Editado: Maio 21, 2008, 9:18pm

>28 heina: Based on the tag cloud and reviews of The Bronze Bow I think I could understand why it might not be the best thing for a child to read in public school. I mean, I likely wouldn't prevent a child from reading it if they picked it up of their own interest, but I wouldn't have necessarily agreed with it being a class read where they were told to read it. Of course, I might just be biased since I love The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle!

... But some quick googling comes across this rather objectionable part in The Bronze Bow speaking about rabbis' opinions of Jesus: "“I mean the elders of the synagogue. The rabbis and the scribes, they can't understand him. They'refurious at the things he says and does. He is too free with the Law. ...Some even say he is in league withthe devil. ... Some of them hate him so much - I think they would kill him if they could..."

The website (http://www.bronzebow.info/The%20Bronze%20Bow%20-%20L%20Levy%207.htm) that quoted this noted that there historically was no Jewish concept of the Devil, so it inaccurately portrays Judaism (with other serious errors like this too) and brings up the whole issue of whether Jewish people should be blamed for Jesus' death. So, while I don't agree with censorship in general, I can see why this book would be objectionable.

I guess I don't mind having books on shelves to be picked up by people if they want, but I think it is a different matter if the book is being recommended to a child, or a child is being made to read it.

Maio 21, 2008, 9:32pm

Well, I would say yes, but, as I learned yesterday, my kids have great sense about what NOT to put in their heads... better than me, I think. I actually usually do the recommending, anyway... other than school assigned, and I read with them and talk about the books. I don't really have to much trouble with it. I had a lot of people giving me the stink eye because I reading Of Mice and Men with my then 14 year old.

Maio 21, 2008, 9:44pm

I was not familiar with The Bronze Bow but from reading the descriptions and the reviews on both LT and Amazon, I would have some problems with it being used as a class read in public school. I would have no problem with it being a reading list choice, but not a group selection. I have no problem with the book, only the discussion.

Discussions on the pros and cons of various religious beliefs and practices have no place in a public school classroom. A majority of families in this country base the ethical and moral belief systems taught their children on their personal religious beliefs, however, that is not true for all families. A public school system has such a diverse student population that exposure to a myriad of religious dogma can only cause confusion. It is extremely difficult to explain why a family’s ethical, moral, and philosophical belief system differs from that of a teacher when that difference is part of the curriculum.

Maio 23, 2008, 8:53am

Our fifth-grade teacher read us "The Bronze Bow." Five decades ago, it was seen as a cautionary tale against zealotry and violence.

Some Christian parents objected to it because it put Jesus firmly in the Jewish tradition and referred to him as a Jewish rabbi.

How times change!

Maio 23, 2008, 10:15am

#31 “Discussions on the pros and cons of various religious beliefs and practices have no place in a public school classroom. A majority of families in this country base the ethical and moral belief systems taught their children on their personal religious beliefs, however, that is not true for all families. A public school system has such a diverse student population that exposure to a myriad of religious dogma can only cause confusion.”

muzzie I respect your opinion but I could not disagree more on this point. I think that if every high school student had to take a class where representatives from the major religions, and some of the nut case cults, came in and explained the basic tenets of their beliefs. The nut case cults would be exposed as being just that. Hate mongers like the anti-Catholic Klan of the 1920’s would be disarmed because everyone would know just how similar most religions are. People would learn that suicide bombers are no more typical of Muslims than bombers of women’s clinics are typical of Christians or serial pedophiles are typical of the LDS church. Removing the mystery from what other people believe cannot be a bad thing. I think, and this is just my opinion, that anyone that objects to putting religion in the sunshine where it can be plainly seen and examined does so because they have deep seated doubts about their own faith.

Maio 23, 2008, 10:27am

TLCrawford wrote: People would learn that suicide bombers are no more typical of Muslims than bombers of women’s clinics are typical of Christians or serial pedophiles are typical of the LDS church. Removing the mystery from what other people believe cannot be a bad thing.

I really agree with you on this. It made me stop and think about how we Americans are viewed around the world through the lenses of the local media.

Maio 23, 2008, 2:40pm

You'd probably like Religious Literacy-the author brings up the issue of properly teaching religion in classrooms and the fine line between teaching and preaching.

Maio 23, 2008, 2:57pm

that does look good, I added it to my want list at the library. I need to stay off here and get some reading done. I am falling behind.

Maio 23, 2008, 3:09pm

I couldn't agree with you more Flee. My son is 11, he reads at a college level but that doesn't mean he has the maturity to process and understand everything he's capable of reading.
Anyway to me censorship suggests a permanent ban on something. We're talking about delaying reading something until the child is older. As Flee said, that's parenting not censorship.

Maio 23, 2008, 3:28pm

I can only remember my Mom telling me I couldn't read one book-- Fried Green Tomatoes. I'm still not entirely sure why, but she just felt I wasn't ready to read it. I actually read it anyway, and liked it well enough. Then I read it as a sophomore in high school, and suddenly the whole book was more meaningful. It's amazing what flies over the head of a 10 year old. I definitely agree that parents should keep an eye on what their kids are reading-- American Psycho is an extreme example, but there are a lot of books that have very mature themes and images that kids aren't ready to handle. As a parent, you are the best one to decide if your child is ready or not. I will say, it is always better to stretch a little than to stay in the same "comfort zone" for too long.

Maio 24, 2008, 6:27pm

Re what goes over the heads of children:

My son read Holes, and completely missed the racial issues in the backstory. He thought that having a romance with the onion-seller would distract the teacher from her job.

It wasn't until we'd read "Huck Finn" and saw the "Holes" DVD a year ago that he said, "Oh, I didn't get that the first time. They didn't want them to be together because he was black and she was white, right?"

It's heartening that the kid didn't pick up on it during the first read. But sad that unless you drag that legacy of slavery and racial inequality out of the closet, your kid really doesn't know what it is to be an American.

Maio 25, 2008, 11:28am

Or maybe you've raised him so that he doesn't see a problem with interracial relationships so when he first came across it he just never considered that a possibilty behind their motivation. Why would he? To him, it is just a difference in skin color.

*before there is a misunderstanding......Yes i know that racism still exists, but if this kid hadn't seen an example of it, then he wouldn't neccessarily make the connection to the story.

Maio 25, 2008, 2:18pm

My mother was always very lenient when it came to my reading material. The only book she ever refused to let me read was The Bridges of Madison County when I was 10. She explained that she thought I was a little too young for it (I was still playing with Barbie dolls, so I think she made the right call there), and that I would understand it better when I was older. When I was in my late teens, I picked it up and she had no objections.

I would probably do the same in a similar situation -- not completely ban my child from reading a book, but instead ask them to wait until they're mature enough to truly understand it.

Jun 12, 2008, 9:36am

Absolutely there have been books I have told my children they were not to read for now because they were not ready. Not because the books were evil but because either they would present themes for which the children were not ready developmentally or in certain cases the books themselves have an agenda of teaching children to think in certain ways (such as Christian fiction--we're not Christian!). The funny thing here is that my 12 year old is more mature in certain ways than her older sister, and she has been the one to request that I reconsider certain books first (to which I have almost always answered that she may certainly read them now that she's old enough to understand them). Included among these have been Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle and Lewis's Narnia books. Now that she's old enough to understand the sexual undertones of the former and the theology of the latter, she's welcome to enjoy the stories and appreciate the literary aspects of the works.
I agree that it's not censorship, it's parenting. I still wouldn't let her read books with core themes or depictions of sexual violence or graphic violence of any sort, but I wouldn't be upset if she chose to read them when she's old enough to deal with that sort of thing.
I have stopped my immature early teen child from buying manga books with nudity and sexual scenes. Not because I'm a prude but because I just don't think she or particularly her younger brothers who also read these are developmentally ready. Again, if as older teenagers they choose to read them it wouldn't upset me nor would I ban the works from our house.

Jun 12, 2008, 9:42am

Thinking of making material accessible; it always amazed me that some friends read the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy to their young children until they explained they acted it all out with Beanie Babies to make it more age-appropriate. I just stuck with The Hobbit until my kids were old enough to read TLOR on their own.

It is a challenge choosing material for young high-level readers, especially if they are not also emotionally mature (like one of my own daughters). That's where LT and Chinaberry and any other source of annotated bibliography becomes important for me to help determine what I would recommend to her and what I wouldn't.

Jun 12, 2008, 9:50am

yup I would. But I would teach them what's with what about life first, so they could understand it. When I was a child, I actually read grown up books. My parents let me touch and read their books because mostly they trust me with them books and trust I have good judgement. and indeed I did XD

Jun 29, 2008, 3:10pm

10: "It's not censorship, it's parenting."

I agree completely!

Not a parent myself, but I have an 11-year-old niece (going on 30) who, like me, is a precocious reader. That she can read at an adult level is not the point; she lacks the life experience and the judgment to truly understand. But limiting her reading isn't censorship, it's parenting (as fleela said)--or being a good auntie.

My Mom went crazy when I'd read nearly every Nancy Drew mystery by fourth grade. Having shown a liking for mysteries, I was given Agatha Christie--proper British mysteries, with little bloodshed (most of it offstage), the merest suggestion of sex (again, offstage), and no bad language. Then the Williamsburg series by Elswyth Thane, which I enjoyed so much that I eventually visited Colonial Williamsburg.

Now, of course, I read all kinds of stuff--a few that would make Mom blush. But once I was an adult, she never tried steer me away.

The difference between censorship and parenting is that censorship tries to prohibit certain books to everyone, forever. Parenting just says to one's own child, "Not yet." Yet makes all the difference.

Jul 13, 2008, 9:28am

10: "It's not censorship, it's parenting."

I've another example. Yesterday I took my 13-year old to the movies ("Hellboy II"). There were 4- and 5- year old kids in there. Whoa.

I don't know, at that age I was traumatized by watching the Whizard of Oz...

Editado: Jul 15, 2008, 2:13pm

Yeah. There are certain series, like Goosebumps, that I would not buy for my kids because I find them to be completely without merit. That's my job as a parent, to teach my kids -- and only my kids -- what is worthwhile and what is utter crap.

And we definitely put limits on what the kids could read and watch and which video games they could play when they were younger. Again, I think it's my job to protect them from stuff they don't need to know about until they are old enough to understand it. (We have very liberal attitudes about this stuff though -- we would only prevent them from reading stuff we thought would bother or affect them, like graphic sex and sadistic violence. Inappropriate humor, sarcasm, magic, witchcraft, religion, racism, alternative lifestyles, stuff like that we have no problem with.)

But rather than focus on what they can't read, we overloaded them with books they could read. All three of my kids have always had a bookcase full of books, we ordered books from the Scholastic fliers, we take them to the bookstore all the time. I always suggest books I liked when I was a kid, but they have always been able to make their own decisions about which books to read.

I have actually had more problems getting them to read books I love than preventing them from reading books inappropriate to their maturity.

Jul 15, 2008, 2:57pm

I consider the internet to be a more threatening place than the library. When i was subbing in special ed classroom we took the kids to the computer lab for a regular session & one boy enjoyed looking for stuff about cats online most especially he loved kittens. Many of you know what sort of stuff you will get if you type in kitties or kittens or cute kitties etc. I had to word my requests very carefully in order to find something fit for him to see & this is in a school computer lab! So in one's home having a kid filter is just about mandatory for the younger child to safely surf. When they are older you can talk to them about limits & standards & keep the computer where you can keep your eye on it!
When i was in college & my daughter was 11 i took her to see a college production of 'Inhierit the Wind'. Which some people considered to be inappropriate kiddie fare. I knew my child well enough to know otherwise. I never would have censored her reading. Unfortunately that never became a question as she is not and never has been a recreational reader. She read what was required in school & college & now reads what is required in her work but just does not read for fun. However the reading habit skipped a generation as my grandaughter is an avid reader. My daughter & SIL encourage her habit as do i ! 8^)

Jul 15, 2008, 3:57pm

randomarbitrary, yes, great point that when your kids are young, they look to you and their teachers for good book recommendations, and you can do an awful lot to guide them to the "good stuff."

I'm not a fan of Goosbumps, either, but there's a used book store where we camp, and my son would buy Goosebumps for a buck a bag when he was 10.

After he'd finished about six of them he said, "These are all the same--cliffhanger at the end of every chapter, someone who seems regular turns out to be a monster, alien, ghost," etc. etc.

There was one he kept because it didn't follow the formula.

It was gratifying that he could see these were pulp fiction for kids and not up to better books he'd read.

Jul 15, 2008, 4:04pm

I'm pretty relaxed about children and reading. I grew up reading anything i could get my hands on and I would like my kids to do the same. Although I would probably draw the line at pornographic material and some violent books at young ages, but I really think that around 10 year old the child can and should be able to have the option to choose their reading materials.

Jul 15, 2008, 7:52pm

A great thing to do with your kid is to let them recommend books to you.

I just finished reading "The Lightning Thief" that my son passed on to me.

He has ADD like the kid in the story (though not the dyslexia). We talked about whether the author captured how ADDers perceive things, and that made for a great conversation.

There's a lot of Greek mythology in the book. I asked him if he could figure out, from the multi-eyed Argus character in "Thief," why J.K. Rowling gave Filch the first name of Argus in the Harry Potter series.

I also liked author Riordan's updating of the Olympians. Poseidon as a surfer dude with a bass boat seat for a throne, and Charon as a snobbish and harassed ferryman were pretty hilarious.

Whatever keeps lines of communication open about what the kiddies are reading helps them absorb your standards and be discriminating without your having to put the kibosh on a lot of material.

Editado: Jul 16, 2008, 9:19am

>51 nohrt4me:-I've been recommending The Lightning Thief to just about every boy between 8 and 15 (well, to their parents-I'm not around actual children other than my own very often).
When I was younger, my mom and I swapped books all the time-I was really into the Anistasia Krupnick books and had her read them all, and she loved Anne of Green Gables and had me read them all. We still swap books all the time, though now I give her about 10 recommendations for every one she gives me (she's in grad school and I'm a librarian-different reading priorities).
So-keeping up with your kid's reading now, recommending good books, and listening to their recommendations can set you up for a life of good book recommendations when the kid grows up!

Jul 16, 2008, 2:21pm

I was always of the philosophy that anything (within the limits of common sense) that gets a child to read is a step in the right direction. I spent one whole summer reading Nancy Drew. Yes, I figured out the formula pretty quickly, but it was a summer of upheaval, and I found the formula comforting.

As a librarian, I often recommend formula-like books to beginning or unsure readers. I figure these books (Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, Hank the Cowdog, Magic Treehouse - even Cowboy Sam, God bless him!) will help me gently lead them on to other (stronger) books in the same genre, then to related genres, etc. Ever widening the horizon.

Jul 17, 2008, 1:05pm

"I figured out the formula pretty quickly, but it was a summer of upheaval, and I found the formula comforting."

I never thought about it, but it's true! When I'm in a funk, I go on detective story jags, Ruth Rendell or Agatha Christie.

Or I re-read Austen. Always a buck-up.

Jul 25, 2008, 4:49pm

#13 I agree that reactions to movies are far different from their books. My personal experience was with Jurassic Park. I was a Dinosaur nut and the movie came out when I was in 5th grade. I read the book before my parents took me to go see it and really liked it but the movie freaked me out! I spent a lot of the movie with my face buried in someone’s shoulder.

I know the biggest frustration facing my friend is that her daughter is a very advanced reader for her age but books at her reading level aren’t so appropriate for her age. I'm not to sure its ok to hand a third grader a book like Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or something from that age range.

Jul 26, 2008, 11:05am

>55 Ceridwen83:

See, I was in third grade when the movie Jurassic Park came out, and I adored it. Dinosaurs and Jeff Goldblum! (Ok, I might have been a weird nine year old. Scratch that: I know I was a weird nine year old, but I don't know if that has anything to do with liking Jeff Goldblum) I read the book at some point in the following year, and I got through it but it didn't really do anything for me. I think I found it a little dry.

Set 12, 2008, 1:00pm

when it comes to reading, my family was always strange. my father reads constantly, his favorite author is hemingway, and yet i don't ever remember him suggesting or prohibiting books to me as a child. i know he encouraged me to read in general, but specifically he wasn't involved. on the other hand, my mother hardly reads at all, and when she does it's usually fairly light weight chick lit such as nicolas sparks. she was the one who took me to bookstores or filled out my scholastic applications.

the only time i ever remember her hesitating to let me get a book was when i was 13 and wanted to read clan of the cave bear. she read the back cover and then asked the lady working at the store whether it was age-appropriate. i was shocked and embarrassed. but the lady said yes, so my mom bought it. and maybe i should have waited a few years for that one. it deals with rape and sexual rights, whether women should choose who they partner with (ok, it's set in prehistoric times), etc. i didn't feel traumatized by it, but i somehow just knew it be better to wait a few years to finish the series.

i did go on to read the other books throughout highschool and college. after i had finished, i suggested my mom read them. she never finished clan of the cave bear (mostly because she has a small attention span for reading) but she did comment on the fact that maybe that book was a little advanced for me at 13. we laughed about how awkward i was at 13 and that reading something that graphic was strange but also a bit maturing (in a good way) and that it made me a braver reader.

i agree with those that are for GUIDING their children through books. i think if my parents had ever said i couldn't read something, it would have forced me to read it secretly and then i would have been afraid to discuss anything that bothered me. but helping your children understand why something might be better left for later, not only encourages good reading behavoirs, but trust and understanding between you. i think that ultimately the timing that they are allowed certain materials has to be a comprimise between you both. children never fail to surprise me with their smarts and their determination.

Editado: Set 13, 2008, 11:59am

"It's not censorship, it's parenting." -- fleela

...sums it up succinctly!

I was a precocious reader myself and don't recall any overt "censorship." I read Lord of the Rings, Gone with the Wind, and everything by Robert A. Heinlein in 4th/5th grade (and then read LOTR and Heinlein over-and-over-and-over...)

I do remember that in 2nd/3rd grade there was a book sale at school (primarily "Scholastic" new books but there was a table of used books) and I brought home a used copy of Friday by Heinlein (Friday has her jumpsuit unzipped down to her navel on the cover) for my Dad cause I knew he liked Heinlein and Mom kinda raised her eyebrows that it was for sale at an elementary school booksale.

Later on...A friend loaned me Flowers in the Attic when I was in H.S. and my mother's response was along the lines of "There are so many GOOD books out there, but if you want to waste your time reading TRASH..." I did read Flowers in the Attice and another "bodice-ripper" that my friend loaned me before deciding that she really did have terrible taste in books and went back to my science-fiction.

I do think that there is some merit to the argument that books with certain (political/religious/philosophical) concepts which might be over-the-heads of youngsters are never-the-less "safe" as they kids just won't get them. The problem is, of course, that they may write them off LATER as books that they "don't like" and not try again.

The books I think are RIPE for parental restriction are those that generate disturbing mental images that you can never erase! I have read/heard/seen things that I WISH I could erase from my brain - and I'm an adult. Examples:
Choke by Chuck Palahniuk (mentioned above)
Running with Scissors byAugusten Burroughs
Justine by Marquis de Sade

Editado: Nov 22, 2008, 3:42am

I am thirteen and in the eighth grade and I have just read Go Ask Alice. Let's call my friend Sally and her mum Kath: Kath actually recommended the book to Sally, Kath had read it when she was in ninth grade and swears it's the reason she (Kath) never touched drugs. Sally read it and it also absolutely and completely turned her off drugs (not that she wanted to try them in the first place =P). Then, in turn, Sally recommended the book to me and it was really raw and emotional and the fact that a fifteen year old girl (a year and a couple months older than me) actually wrote this, experienced this, did this was really quite painful. It was sad that the subject of the book (referred to as "Alice") died three weeks after her desicion not to keep another diary and after getting off drugs and getting a nice, decent boyfriend.
I know that some people believe the book is a work of fiction but it seems so REAL and raw and emotional, like you would actually have to go through it to write about it so well. So, I believe it is real.
I know, even with the sexual content and drug-theme, my parents wouldn't object because it's one of those books that convinces you not to and it certainly did for me, for Kath and for Sally.
I know it is banned in some schools which is ridiculous, if a book can stop someone from using drugs then it would be in the first shelf if I was the librarian/principal.
Also, The Lovely Bones is in my school library but in the senior section, I think the book is absolutely fantastic. It is so moving and in some parts, beautiful and brought tears to my eyes more than once. It's a book that stays in your mind.
The Goosebumps Series - I started reading this series when I was about eight - I loved them and my parents bought me the whole set when I was nine. My parents are extremely happy that I like books so I have no restrictions whatsoever. I will generally look a book up on the internet first and if it's too violent or what not, I would simply not read it, if the violent (and what not) was justifiable and for the "greater good" then I would have no objections. I read Sold, a book about an Indian girl sold into sexual slavery (it wasn't too graphic) and it made me cry, which was embarrassing since I read it in class and my two friends noticed me with tears streaming down my face.
One of the girls in my class has just gotten into Stephen King, which I thought was a little too "advanced" but she seemed to enjoy the book, which I think was Duma Key. I love reading books about real ancient people, it just fascinates me. I read a really thick book about Cleopatra and it was amazing.
I am a huge fan of the Twilight saga, it has no drugs, swearing and the worst Bella and Edward do is hold hands and kiss. My Dad actually commented on this book by saying, "Are you into dark fantasy?"
And I replied, "No, it's a great story, it's almost as popular as Harry Potter, I'm not an emo or anything."
And he seemed satisfied because I'm getting the set for Christmas from him and my Mum anyway and he's driving me to the movie. I think the only issue was that it had vampires and werewolves in it and my Dad's pretty old-fashioned and lived in an era where the supernatural was considered "queer". But he loves Harry Potter and some people (I remember when I was about nine a girl told me) aren't allowed to watch/read it because it has witchcraft in it. Harry Potter is an amazing story, which, no doubt, will be a classic.
So some things are appropriate to say to, "Wait for a few more years, honey, you won't understand it now." and some things are ridiculous to say "no" and put a ban to.

Nov 23, 2008, 10:50am

#59, our paths keep crossing!

I think what your dad did--reading the books and making recommendations--is a great thing to do with young teens.

My kid will be 13 in a few months, and I recently gave him Slam by Nick Hornby. He read and loved About a Boy earlier this year.

These are adult books, and deal with adult themes. Not sure if they're available at the school library; in "About a Boy," the mother attempts suicide. In "Slam," a 15-year-old boy gets his girlfriend pregnant.

What's great about Hornby's (and some other adult books for younger teen boys) is that validate a) that men and boys have feelings and b) that their emotional lives are different from but no less deep than women's.

These are perspectives I, as a 50-something mother, who's old enough to be my kid's grandmother, really can't provide, but they've given us lots of interesting things to talk about.

Nov 24, 2008, 11:41pm

Have been ill, therefore, I have not been on for a while so I was noticed with pleasure that this thread continued. I was the first one to comment after klarusu first introduced this topic back in May. At the time, the part that bothered me was the fact that a book of perhaps questionable content was given to a child without first asking the child’s parent’s permission.

At twelve and thirteen James Fennimore Cooper, Leon Uris, Ayn Rand, Agatha Christie, and Ian Fleming were among my favorite authors. It was a time when a young girl still played with dolls and kept “True Story” magazines under her mattress. Many of today’s young boys and girls are way ahead of children of past generations in their understanding of the real or surreal world. Yet, statistics state that these same children lack the education and resultant knowledge and skill levels of their counterparts in an earlier age.

I am pleased to see so many who have given this subject a goodly amount of study and care so deeply for their children and the children of future generations. I am one of those who were totally against censorship for my children. Even though my children have grown children of their own, I still hold the same view I held thirty-five years ago.

One of my children is an educator, the other a programmer. Since they went to bed with a book instead of a teddy bear, it is no surprise that they feel books played a large part in forming the people they are today.

That said I respect the opinion of those who would limit or make other determinations with their children’s reading. Parents know their own children and should have the right to raise their children according to their family’s beliefs and value system.

Thank you klarusu for starting this thread in addition to all of those who have kept it going.

Dez 6, 2008, 10:37pm

#60 - it seems we have eerily the same taste!!

I am only a teenager but I would NEVER limit my child to "kid" books. I never liked picture books as a child so I went straight onto this Australian series called "Aussie Nibbles", simply written paperbacks for kids 6-8. But the only thing I would take care with was probably horror books as I know how much impact they can have on kids, I had nightmares for weeks after reading a Goosebump book when I was around 8. Some parents think that their kids are just that, "kids", but often we can interpret things much more fluently than an adult. Kids are very undercredited!! But I do agree that different people have different views and I wouldn't call anyone a "bad" parent for banning books if they see that fit.
CP x

Dez 27, 2008, 12:35pm

My parents never cared about what I was reading (they don't read at all themselves) and I turned out just fine. My library has one specific area dedicated to children's books and we could borrow adult books once we were 13 (although I asked if I could have an adult card when I turned 12 and the librarians said yes), so I followed that path. Up till recently I didn't even know so many parents decided what their children should read/what was appropriate for them to read.

Perhaps it's just me but it seems to me that some parents think it's their job to control as much as they can of their kids' life. I don't think it's fair to trust you child only when he or she does what you want.

Dez 27, 2008, 10:01pm

I feel like repeating myself -

I have no problem telling my 11 year old son that he doesn't need to read Trainspotting just yet.

It's not censorship (or control), it's parenting.

Editado: Dez 28, 2008, 10:09pm

>64 DaynaRT:

There's no reason not to repeat yourself if you want to, but I really don't think either side is going to pursuade the other, here, so much as just share our various reasonings. Telling your eleven-year-old that he doesn't need to read Trainspotting is an approach to parenting, yes. My parents encouraging me to read whatever I wanted and in fact paying for any book I wanted until I had my own money was an approach to parenting, too. You know your eleven-year-old best and if you think he's inclined to try to read a book before he's ready for it, what to tell him is up to you. But that doesn't mean that those of us whose parents figured that if we couldn't take a book, we'd stop reading it, were neglected or not parented properly. It sounds like most of us who are answering this question "No," aren't saying it because we don't think a parent should be able to make those decisions, but because that's how we were raised. If we were raised being able to read whatever we want and were pleased with the results, then it's only logical that we'd plan to do the same with our kids.

Yes, it sounds like there's a little hesitation about Horror. Personally I read scary stories as a kid because being scared a bit by something harmless like a book was fun, but that's probably one of those situations where a parent needs to know how sensitive an individual kid is and how prone s/he is to getting him/herself in over his/her head. I have to wonder how you'd determine if a child was ready to read Goosebumps or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark without letting the child read something along those lines and seeing the reaction, though. I apparently read and loved the latter a good three years before anybody in my Intellectual Freedom class last year thought a child should be reading them, and was shocked at the statement that "a second grader wouldn't really be able to read them and would only be getting scary pictures out of context."

Dez 28, 2008, 11:00pm

>65 Unreachableshelf:
I read anything I wanted as a child, but that approach will not work with my own child. It's still not censorship.

Dez 29, 2008, 10:35am

My kid reads a lot of manga (those Japanese comic-book things). I don't get the aesthetic or the gestalt at all, and I find them dopey and the images of women kind of disturbing. But, they're really no worse than Marvel comics, when you come down to it. Impossible feats of strength and pumped up bods.

Maybe this discussion would benefit from looking at specific examples.

To wit:

If your kid were bringing home "Penthouse" or trolling porn sites on the Internet, would you censor then?

What if he brought home a copy of "Mein Kampf?" Or writings by the Marquis de Sade?

Dez 29, 2008, 3:10pm

If my child were reading “Penthouse,” “Mein Kampf,” or the writings of Marquis de Sade, I would want to know. Many children will read what they want whether their parents approve or not. Knowing what a child is reading allows a parent to discuss the material and place it in the right perspective. Penthouse has some pretty good articles.

Books like Mein Kampf provide a historical perspective that is not usually taught in many of our schools. Knowledge of what has happened will help us prevent the worst from happening again.

I do have a problem with the web. Not because of what a child may see, but because some pervert might possibly contact and place a child in danger, therefore, controls are necessary. If a child finds it necessary to view porn to a degree that surpasses a normal desire to find out what is so interesting, I would want to know in case there is a problem. I find de Sade a little too much, although I’m pretty sure there is something of his in my library, though not cataloged yet.

However, these are my views, based on my moral and ethical values. Families do not all have the same value systems and while a child is under the control of a parent, that parent has the right to decide what may be read. That doesn’t prevent someone from reading forbidden material. It seems that the more something is forbidden the more desirable it becomes.

Mar 27, 2009, 1:49am

Absolutely not! However there is a reason why we have children, teen, young adult, and adult categories. Obviously if my child is, say, 7 years old, well they wouldn't be reading adult books, because that is not their age level and they wouldn't be able to understand it. But if my child wanted to read Harry Potter at any age then that is certainty okay with me. Censorship isn't telling a child they can't read an adult book. Censorship is telling a teen that they cannot read a teen book. Now if my child was 10 and wanted to read an adult book, and if they understood it and was mature enough then I would allow them to read it. Obviously there are exceptions such as if my child brought home a book on devil worshiping or a how to book on murder. I would have to ask them why they would want to read that and then go from there. Research? Curiosity? Or something more sinister? But I don't believe any books should be banned. It should be the parent or guardian only who makes that decision for their OWN child. 99.9% of the reasons for banning are ridiculous. Language, fantasy, sex, ect. We get all that from tv, movies, music, the real world, games, ect. We can't ban real life, so we shouldn't try to ban "reel" life. I was NEVER told that i wasn't allowed to read something and my children will be raised the same way. Freedom to read!!!!!!!!

Mar 27, 2009, 3:00pm

I admit having a fleeting pang when my mother handed my 13-year-old The DaVinci Code.

I'm Catholic, she can't stand the Church, so I felt some of it was her passive-aggressive way of reminding me she doesn't approve of my belief system.

On the other hand, I've read DVC myself, and my sense is that the kid is going to have to deal with lot of challenges to his beliefs over his lifetime, and letting him read it now when I have a chance to provide some perspective is for the best.

Besides, the pagan ritual scene where the old people have sex will probably give him the creeps. He'll be happy to know the Church frowns on that and so many more types of sexual activity. Hee.

Mar 27, 2009, 4:24pm

I just remembered a quote that i thought was very fitting for this discussion...

"All of us can think of a book... that we hope none of our children or any other children have taken off the shelf. But if I have the right to remove that book from the shelf - that work I abhor - then you also have exactly the same right and so does everyone else. And then we have no books left on the shelf for any of us."
-- Katherine Paterson, American author of childrens books (1932-)

I really like this because she's saying even though there are books we may not like, removing them will eventually leave us with nothing.

nohrt4me----I really like how you described your thought process about the DVC, kinda like pros and cons and then told us about letting your child read it. i liked that :)

Editado: Mar 27, 2009, 5:27pm

Notice Ms Paterson says "remove that book from the shelf" - not "stop my child from reading." I only have the right and responsibility to monitor my own child, never someone else's. And of course, I only worried about my own child's reading when she was younger. By the time she was 13 (as in nohrt4me's example) she could read anything she wanted as far as I was concerned.

It is my impression that most of us are more or less in agreement - we stumble over words like "child" because we have different mental pictures of what is meant. I had a bright kid who was capable of reading 'way above her grade level. But just because she could read The Color Purple when she was 7 or 8 did not mean I thought she should - and would have prevented it had she tried.

Maio 30, 2009, 10:07am

xcullenpridex seems to be an exceptionally bright "kid." Probably a lot like many of us at that age--a book lover and omnivorous reader with widely scattered tastes. And good parents who discuss her reading and know what she's up to (well, most of the time....). That's important. If you find yourself over your head as a young reader, it's good to have a caring but not-too-critical adult to set you on the right track again.

Not all 13-year-olds are as mature, and not all parents are able to navigate the path between treating their offspring as little children and adults. I've seen parents baby their children right up to the kids' 18th birthdays, then expect them to magically become adults. But I've never seen a child mature along a straight line like that....

I will only disagree that parents limiting their children's reading is not censorship or book banning (62); it's being a responsible parent, whether we agree with their judgment or not. After a child turns 18 and becomes a legal adult, he or she ought to be free to read anything. And such control applies only to one's own children--other parents are allowed to set (or not set) their own limits.

Editado: Jun 10, 2009, 5:35pm

Hello. I am several months into my fourteenth year, and I have to say that I would only restrict a child's reading if the child was very immature, or if it's plainly not a good idea (I wouldn't give porno to a 4-year-old to read, for example).

I would be quite the hypocrite if I forbid a child from reading or viewing 'nasty' things; I myself enjoy looking at actual crime scene photographs and reading the case files and coroner reports, and have done so for at least six years (with the exception of the coroner reports. Those are a few years more recent). I have also seen pornography, which is a bit unsightly, not to mention certain other things I don't see fit to name here. I can't think of a single thing I wouldn't be allowed to read or view.

Again, if the child in question was immature, then I would probably prefer it if certain books weren't read for a while. If the child wanted to read one of said books, then I would sit down and explain. There aren't any other good solutions, in my opinion.

>22 AngelaB86: - I watched Saw when I was ten and Hostel a little over a year ago. Saw was beautifully done all around; Hostel was vastly inferior.

>46 Sandydog1: - The Wizard of Oz scared the hell out of me when I was very small, I believe. Something about the witch's feet under a building. Gore and the like didn't bother me, but witch's feet...

>59 G.A.B.E: - I very much doubt that the Harry Potter series will become classics in their own right. They will certainly remain popular for a long time to come, though.

>67 nohrt4me: - Not all manga series are like that. There are some that are very philosophical, etc., though I admit that there is much garbage.

>73 Karen5Lund: - Neither of my parents talk to me about my reading. I could talk to one of them if I wanted to, but I generally don't because we don't read the same books. I can't see anything wrong with that; I can't view it as important.

I am basically treated as an adult by one of my parents. I don't spend time with the other, so he knows next to nothing about me. He doesn't know what I read, and doesn't bother me; that's all I really care about.

Jun 30, 2009, 3:07pm

I don't think that it is bad to keep your children from reading certain books at certain times. I don't have kids yet but I watch what my little sister reads sometimes because my parents don't read and usually don't care. I asked her to hold off on 1984 for a little while so that she would understand it a little more and it is not even that bad.

Fev 5, 2010, 11:51am

that's just your feeling ... what if she is ready? why do we always assume we know what's best, why not allow the child to read the book and then ask if he/she understood the book?

Fev 5, 2010, 11:57am

it's always I don't think ... hmmm I don't know ... why not just ask us what we think, why not ask us how we feel ????? Give us the tools we need to grow, Give us knowledge, Give us Wisdom ... Give us the freedome to choose ... ^;^

Fev 5, 2010, 11:19pm

As kids, we were never restricted, which allowed me the freedom to explore everything at my own pace. Was I ready for Moby Dick at eight? No, and I put it down because it didn't hold my interest. Did I get into Ayn Rand at 13/14, yes. If a parent has done a good job, and given the child the proper tools to grow as an individual, I see no harm in letting them read what they wish. If it is too adult for them and beyond their comprehension, they will put it aside, for reading is supposed to be for pleasure, and that which we do not understand rarely provides this benefit.

Fev 5, 2010, 11:33pm

I agree with you, KJ, with one exception. 12/14 year olds are not really old enough to process violent abusive sex scenes - but they are old enough to get some vicarious pleasure from them. They do not understand, but probably will not put it down.

I would argue that a certain minimum oversight to junior high readers (and others a bit younger or older depending on maturity) might be important.

Fev 6, 2010, 1:32am

79> 12/14 year olds are not really old enough to process violent abusive sex scenes...

Like Hip Hop and Rap videos, and computer games?

Fev 6, 2010, 1:39am

Do they really process things like that in ways that you are comfortable with?

(Oops. prepositional ending. Trying again.)

Do they really process things like that in ways with which you are comfortable?

Are they able to understand such things are not usual? Do they understand that is not the way to treat people (women especially)?

I'd like to think I'm wrong, but I don't think they do understand.

Editado: Fev 6, 2010, 2:25am

Like Hip Hop and Rap videos, and computer games?

Perhaps sometimes you can think certain things are bad for them--you would want or hope that they would not be exposed--while also thinking that forcibly restricting them might have worse effects. No doubt, many of us can think of things that "didn't do us any harm". But maybe the sample is biased. Those that were harmed won't necessarily speak out, or possibly won't even realize what truly harmed them. Or there weren't that many of them that were harmed--but those that were harmed were harmed badly.

As an example, the height of my drug phase was when I was thirteen. I passed through it with no ill effects, I think. That is to say, any faults or problems that I might have had later or that I do have now were at least not due to that. However, the top two ring leaders at the time went on to lead pretty messed up lives.

Fev 6, 2010, 6:48am

No, no, no, no NO! (In answer to the OP, that is.) If they're too young they won't understand it, if they're old enough to understand it they're alreaady thinking about those things (whatever 'those things' are) but if I found they were reading a book that bothered me I would always try to discuss it. They're now 33 and 30 and seem to have turned out okay.

Fev 6, 2010, 10:35am

If you'll notice, I said "minimum oversight." That means being aware of what they are reading, discussing what needs discussing, and gently steering in another direction if they seem overly obsessed with the sexual battery or whatever.

Mar 11, 2010, 7:39am

Nope. In response to the OP, as well. I would certainly make myself aware of what they were reading, and make a point of discussing what's being read...but I imagine I would do that with anything they'd be reading. If I were to have kids.

I actually did a banned books unit with a ninth grade class I taught last year, in which the students each had to report on a banned book...what it was, why it was banned, where, when, and whether or not they thought the banning was fair.

I was surprised at how conservative many of my students were, but that's what free thought is about right? *grumble grumble* It was an extremely interesting experience. We ended the unit with a big class debate about censorship in general...very cool...kids are so smart, I swear, smarter than I'll ever be...and a segue into Fahrenheit 451.

Abr 6, 2010, 4:05pm

"Kids that read or watch TV far beyond their years aren't doing it because they're smart. They do it because it gets a reaction from adults and they're simply not equipped to process things the same way as someone with more than 10 years of living under their belts."

I don't mean to be rude but, EXCUSE ME? I am offended by this comment.

I am 14 years old and by the time I was 12 I had already read books such as A Prayer for Owen Meany, various books by Jody Picoult, The Da Vinci Code and as you mentioned, Go Ask Alice.

I did not read these books because I wanted to get a rise out of my parents, I read them because they were interesting and I was smart enough to get something out of them! (I am currently passing grade 9 with a 90% average, thank you.)

Also, who says you'll be ready to process things just because of your age? I'm sure there are plenty of children that have experienced graphic things such as war, death and sexual incidents (as awful as that is to consider) that adults haven't.

Just because you're older does not necessarily mean you are more experienced.

Abr 6, 2010, 5:35pm

lexi1995, I don't doubt your maturity for your age and the motivation that you have claimed. Furthermore you have expressed yourself so that you can be addressed, no small accomplishment for a fourteen year old.

There are, however, people, among them children, who do things for the attention they get. There are people, among them delicate souls, who are not prepared to hear what is important and must be brought or bring themselves into readiness.

It is a truism that young people, especially young children, experience things differently than adults, and young adults experience things differently than older adults. The date of your first punch in the face can make a big difference in your levels of trust, so you may have experienced such a thing early but you would possibly be a better person for not having experienced it (forgive me for this oversimplification; I think it is clear).

There are very few wise young people. I don't know what portion of old people are wise, but the greatest number of wise people are old. Note, please, that the relationship is not commutative.

Have fun,


Abr 6, 2010, 7:00pm

I don't mean to begin an argument here, but can you prove that there are more wise old people than young?

As I stated before, age obviously has something to do with what type of content they should be reading, but age has nothing at all to do with intelligence or being "wise".

Abr 6, 2010, 7:26pm

I hadn't mentioned intelligence. In conventional thinking about it (say in measuring intelligence quotients) intelligence peaks in the early twenties. I think I do very well at IQ tests nowadays because I have kept at things like reading whereas my cohort, who might have scored better than I earlier, mostly doesn't.

For data about wisdom, including the advantages of age you can see A Handbook of Wisdom: Psychological Perspectives. Wisdom takes not only a lot of experience but paying attention to that experience (which is why a lot of well traveled people are not especially wise), absorbing it, and reflecting seriously on it. That just cannot be done without years.


Abr 7, 2010, 3:16am

"Furthermore you have expressed yourself so that you can be addressed, no small accomplishment for a fourteen year old. ..."

I'd say this is a small accomplishment. Most 14 year olds are capable of it. I'd be more impressed if my technologically-challenged father were able to express himself on the LT forum so that he could be addressed. After all, we all know old people are just incompetent at computers, let's pat any person over 50 on the back every time they write a post successfully too.

Broad negative generalizations can be made about all age groups ;)

Abr 7, 2010, 5:07am

#86 Thanks for drawing my attention to that comment (#5) which I seem to have missed before. I'm not going to join in the arguments about wisdom v. intelligence any farther than to comment that that orginal remark lacks both and I'm not at all surprised you're offended.

When left to their own devices, people read whatever interests them. It's quite a slog (even at my immense age) to read a book that isn't gripping you and - while it is true that there are a number of things young people do to get a reaction from their elders (at least, I know I did) - I find it very hard to believe that reading is one of them. The very fact that most of us did our reading of potentially censorable material well out of sight of our parents seems to indicate the very opposite.

Of course, it is possible for a parent to pique their child's interest in any reading matter by forbidding it and I'd worry about any child for whom that isn't the case. Much depends on the fourteen-year-old in question but I can't think of anything I read now that I would have tried to stop either of my children reading at that age and, had I done so, I'd have been far more worried if they had simply said 'Okay, Mum, I won't read it' than if they'd then had enough intelligent curiosity to want to find out what all the fuss was about.

The world itself isn't censorable and I would much rather my kids found out about the nastier side by reading about it and discussing it with me or their dad than coming up entirely unprepared against the real thing. I do think it's important to have parents who know what you're reading and are prepared to discuss the books and the issues raised by them but that is just good parenting. If a child is brought up with love and understanding by parents who respect his or her choices there isn't much that can go too badly wrong. When it does go wrong it's more down to poor parenting or sheer bad luck than to reading a few unsuitable books.

Lastly, lexi, I'm not going to patronise you by telling you what a clever girl you are to be able to express yourself cogently - I'll just say I hope I'm sitting next to you at the virtual LT dinner party and not next to any member of the LT thought police.

Abr 7, 2010, 7:56am


The ratio of wise people to fools goes up wit age because fools die young, not because age makes you wise. Although after typing that I have to say that I frequently tell myself "don't do that, last time it almost killed us"

Editado: Abr 7, 2010, 11:11am

As the writer of the original comment, I shall point only to this thread and the slew of "but I read such-and such at this age!" to buffer my entire point about garnering attention for reading inappropriate material.

Perhaps I need to explain why in terms that individuals can understand without assigning such knee-jerk reactions to it, one should first understand that I volunteer regularly with sub-12-year old children. It's not at all uncommon to speak to kids about books, movies, television, music or video games in order to gain some common ground. So while certain things may not be my bag when I'm not with these kids, I have a whole library of knowledge when it comes to age-appropriate stuffs so that when a kid wants to excitedly talk about certain stories and tales, they can.

Keep in mind, I'm working with SUB-12s - that's exactly who I described in post #5.

Every once in a while, you run into the kids who have clearly not been given boundaries. They're not mean or horrible, but you do know that they get a lot of attention for mentioning certain books, video games, songs and movies. If you look at this from a child-development perspective and rather than appear shocked or feeding into some sort of false praise, you instead ask, "tell me about the story/movie/book" - and you'll find from the answers that the ability for children to fully compartmentalize and understand what has transpired in these stories is very low.

It's not an insult to their intelligence or wisdom. It's a combination of cognative development and living. At 10 or 11, certain concepts are just vague and nebulous things. As I said in post #5, Sure, there will always be kids that do this and will be perfectly fine. - but I also stressed the kids that aren't perfectly fine. And the problem as a parent is that you'll likely not see the inappropriate play, or you'll likely see it as something funny that gets you attention from adults.

And then there are those that will lavish the false praise. At 10, you get no special credit for reading Matilda or Encyclopedia Brown. It's expected of you and it makes you sound like every other 10-year-old. But, hey, brag about reading a "grown-up" book (even if you can't grasp the majority of the concepts) and suddenly folks are responding. They're either praising your false maturity or acting in some manner that gives you attention.

Either way, I will guarantee you that our reader at 12 did not have a clear understanding of the themes in the books she described reading - I hope she re-reads them in 2 or 3 years and figures out what she missed. Am I claiming that she's damaged based on what I said in post #5? No. Is there a chance? Anything's possible, but it's not the majority. In the end, is she enjoying the attention that she's garnered?


ETA - And, in the end, it is about parenting - as another poster put so well. If your child is doing this for the attention, they're sacrificing a lot of shared ground and the ability to find what they really love. There's a lot everyone does for the shock value - think back to your years of rebellion - and then remind yourself of how little of it actually "sticks." At 9, 10 or 11, we should be encouraging our children to be children. And giving them the attention they deserve so they don't feel the need to act out for it.

Jul 24, 2010, 1:15am

I have 2 daughters(now in their 20's) and have only banned one book and that was when they were preteen.I also told my wife that I thought that she would find the material distastful.
Aside from that no books in my library were off limits,however I did tell the girls that some of the books should be read when they were older but did not stop them from reading them if they did not take my advice.

Jul 31, 2010, 12:16pm

I have absolutely no plans to practice censorship when I have children. I grew up in a home where there was no restrictions upon what material I could read, the thinking be that which has been expressed in various other places in this thread, namely that if you're old enough to want to read it, you're old enough to read it. I strongly feel that attempting to restrict children to "age-appropriate" material encourages them to read books which are aimed at the lowest common denominator, the American mass-market. Your children will be reading "Goosebumps" and "Sweet Valley High" instead of deeper, more intense literature that will positively affect the rest of their lives. I do plan upon having an impact upon my children's reading by suggesting books for them that make them stretch their limits, and do some serious thinking. I wish that my parents had been much more well-read in the classic sense of being well-read than they were. I made occasional forays into the truly sublime, reading Ulysses, Ayn Rand and Voltaire by the time I was 12-13, but I also read a lot of crap like Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I feel that any time you spend reading is better than time spent watching television, but I do wonder how I would have turned out if I'd had all the classics knocked off by the time I was 16-17, instead of playing catch-up as an adult.

Editado: Out 2, 2010, 6:23pm

I always thought that I would not censor. I agree that if a child wants to read it, then they should be able to. Until... my daughter picked up an "age appropriate" magazine (9-12 years) from her school library. It was a bunch of pre-teens in elaborate photospreads with price tags attached to every piece of clothing. Of course, my daughter thought it was the coolest at the coolest camps and she wanted it all. What I realized was that she was not able to make a clear distinction between fiction and reality - to her it was all the same. My reaction was: you can read it at the library, but no way I'm subscribing you to this blatant attempt at commercially corrupting you!

Certainly, photos don't help; words in books and imagination create a distance, whereas magazine and movies tend to pre-chew ideas. It did make me realize, though, that the concept of guiding readings, expressing values and disagreement are just as important as giving access to books. As a parent, I do have a responsibility to monitor my daughter's choices. As a citizen, it is my responsibility to make sure that all books are accessible - there is a nuance.

Out 2, 2010, 7:19pm

I always thought that I would not censor. I agree that if a child wants to read it, then they should be able to. Until... my daughter picked up an "age appropriate" magazine (9-12 years) from her school library. It was a bunch of pre-teens in elaborate photospreads with price tags attached to every piece of clothing. Of course, my daughter thought it was the coolest at the coolest camps and she wanted it all. What I realized was that she was not able to make a clear distinction between fiction and reality - to her it was all the same. My reaction was: you can read it at the library, but no way I'm subscribing you to this blatant attempt at commercially corrupting you!

Why not read it with her and then let her know all of the reasons you dislike what you hear/see? Walk her through things like this this and explain how what she sees isn't the way it is?

Out 2, 2010, 8:43pm

Wow - thanks for the link! It does make the conversation a whole lot more dynamic!

Out 2, 2010, 9:14pm

A book that you might like to read concerning other parts of advertising dynamics would be Can't Buy My Love. Kilbourne spends quite a bit of time examining the subtle and not so subtle subtexts of quite a few advertising tropes and memes.

Out 5, 2010, 11:08pm

You might also wish to watch something like this with her.