The topic of book censorship got me thinking about my own parenting style when my husband and I were raising four boys. When they were little, we read to them often and encouraged independent reading as they grew. In fact, our youngest always had a book along with him anytime we went anywhere in the car. During road trips we’d sometimes have to tell him to put his book down and look at the scenery!
Back in those days, before the evolution of technology ran interference between parents and their kids (remember pagers?), I always appreciated the “guidance” if you will, of movie ratings and parental advisory labels on music media. It helped eliminate some of the guesswork for me and often informed my decisions about what to purchase, rent or borrow.
When my two youngest sons were little, I told them a tiny white lie about movie ratings. I said a “G” rating meant “great!” and a “PG” meant “pretty good.” This helped them choose when they were confronted with racks of VHS movies at our local video rental store.
Books, though, are generally categorized and shelved by their targeted readers’ age group/reading level (for kids) or genre. We know kids can read at, above or below their grade level. This is consistent with what I’ve learned at writing seminars about crafting your story for the intended age group and what those age groups are. For example, young adult readers are considered to be 13 to 18 years of age. Middle grade can range from 8 to 12 (not the same as middle school grades). As writers, we’re advised not to “talk down” to a middle grade reader but to keep MG romance “clean” meaning a hand-hold or a kiss. What 12-year-old who is an avid reader, isn’t going to want to grab a book from the YA section with content that’s a bit edgier?
As Banned Books Week approaches, September 18 thru 24, let’s reflect on books we’ve enjoyed as children or as adults that may or may not have been challenged, as we support and encourage our young readers.