Throughout history, adults have worried about what their kids read. On a small scale, this meant parents limiting what is read in the home. On a bigger scale, this has lead to banning books from schools, libraries and other public spaces.
Not long ago, a Tennessee school chose to ban Maus, a graphic novel inspired by real-life events during the Holocaust, for offensive language and imagery. The move was met with much outcry, as many thought banning this book does a disservice to the students who would benefit from reading this account of the Holocaust.
With rare exception, I believe children should have access to literature. I won’t even add the caveat “age appropriate,” because that term is so subjective and the ability to handle mature material varies greatly from child to child. Furthermore, I believe books are a great way to spark hard conversations.
My kids have come to me with profound questions and thoughts, sparked by their love of reading. Click To Tweet
I recall reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in elementary school, and having lots of questions about periods. I asked my mom, who gave me a thorough explanation, and, thankfully, didn’t stop me from reading other books about growing up. In that experience, my mother also established a safe environment for reading. I knew I could read books and be OK to come to my parents with questions.
As a parent with two avid readers, I want to be open to my kids’ questions and concerns raised by the novels they consume. I don’t want to limit them from reading more advanced books out of fear they might come to me with something uncomfortable.
I also believe there is a difference between discovering something in a book (even an illustrated one), than with viewing something on the Internet or T.V. I am not an expert, however, I do understand our brains process things differently, depending on the medium.
Reading a description of sex, however graphic, is not the same as watching pornography.
Reading about the violent death of a character, is different from viewing it in a movie, or in a video game, yet, interestingly enough, many adults are more OK with their kids watching violent films, where cursing is prevalent than they are with them reading novels with “offensive” language.
With such easy access to adult content, I would much rather my kids learn about sex from a young adult novel than stumbling upon a video online. I would rather them grapple with the subject of death through a coming of age story.
I realize, sex, violence and death aren’t the only topics which make people uncomfortable, and, for good reason. Some take issue with literature that has racist, antisemitic, or otherwise offensive language toward a group of people. Many schools, and homes, have decided to limit or reject such titles. I still believe there is a place for such works, but they need to read with a critical eye. I also believe it is important for the adults to call out harmful language, and use the opportunity to discuss how society and literature has evolved over the years.
Our kids are capable of understanding things far greater than we give them credit for. We worry they won’t be able to handle the horrors of war or the intimacies of human relationships. However, I have been proven otherwise multiple times. My kids have come to me with profound questions and thoughts, sparked by their love of reading.
So, let kids read books. Let them read books that are two grade levels above their age group. Let them read books with “bad” words, and “grown up” topics. Let them come of age and discover things that may make them less innocent. Let them ask questions and develop their critical thinking skills.
Let them read books.