In the comments section of the August 28th This Week in Publishing, a few people were discussing whether children’s books should be rated for sexual and/or violent content in the same way as movies and video games in order to help parents decide what is appropriate for their kids to read.
And while I wasn’t able to participate, this subject also came up in the weekly #kidlitchat on Twitter.
What do you think: should children’s book publishers rate the content in their books so that parents can determine which books are age-appropriate? Is this censorship or at the very least, could it aid censorship?
And, also importantly: would this help sales? Would a publisher who voluntarily rated the content of their books see a sales bump or would there be an outcry?
If you’re reading via e-mail or in a blog reader, click through for a poll.
It's a hard decision to make. On one hand, I don't see a problem with it. But there's a lot of gray area. If a book (like Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series) has sex in it (it is implied if not stated), does that mean she will have to state that on the cover of her books? And violence is a really relative thing – even more so than the sex issue.
I guess I have to say "no" to this question. Books are already "rated" for age-appropriate reading and that should be enough.
Lisa Melts Her Penn says
This makes me want to cry. It is censorship, censorship all over the place! How can these story elements be isolated apart from the rest of the content of a book? So much is context. Who is to determine those ratings and based on what? I'm glad movies have some kind of rating system, because they can be a visual assault that you can't control. A book engages the imagination and you can stop reading at any point. My kids (6 & 9)heard us talking about the movie version of Beowolf last year and wanted to go. We said no. My husband and I saw the movie and said definitely no! But I got a good children's book version of the story for them, and also told my very literate 9-year old that she could read any version she wanted to seek out for herself but she couldn't see the movie. I figured the olde English would throw her off before the violence would.
Lisa Melts Her Penn says
Also, I wanted to AGREE with "A Paperback Writer"'s analysis of what SHOULD go on covers instead, except I hope no one would eliminate a book just because it was written before twitter and facebook.
Awesome LaTerry says
I rememer when I was younger I would go into the library and read everything that I could get my hands on, both the public and schools library. Once in my schools library I picked up a book that I cannot fathom how it ended up there as it had several parts that definitly were not appropriate and I wish I had never picked it up. If there was a rating system that book probably would have never been in my school's library in the first place.
Not much later in my life I was looking at books in a book store and picked one up that looked good. Nothng about its desription or where it was placed said anything about how very very adult oriented that book was. If there was a rating, I would never have picked it up.
All these people mention the early Twilight series as one of the "okay" books, but that series is one on my kids "not to read until older" list, when they can discuss from experience why attempting to love the violent moody stalker who breaks into your house, swears he's dangerous to you and might kill you, but you think you don't care because you just HEART HIM SOOOOO MUCH! may seem like a romantic idea at the time, but is actually bullshit in a bag.
That shit is wicked harmful. I'd rate it R.
Give me a healthy gay couple and a few of good swear words any day. I'd call that a G.
So, who's setting the standard, here?
A rating system would only backfire, regardless of the intent.
First: what is rated and where are the lines? Only the most violent and graphic of content would be universally deemed offensive (within children's lit). then, as you moved down the list you'd find people falling into different opinions.
One person wants to be warned about GLBT themes, another doesn't care. One person thinks teen sex is tabu, another thinks "no big deal. as long as they use a rubber." One person thinks kids with wands are occult and ought to be avoided, another thinks it's harmless, and another thinks it's occult and they are happy because they're practitioning Druids. LOL!
So, a rating system would always be subjective, under attack, moving back and forth between "prudes" and "libertines" so that the ratings would be useless.
2nd: Kids are attracted to anything you tell them they aren't old enough for. Honestly, how many kids do you see turned away from "R" rated movies? If they don't see them in the theatres, they see tham at home on DVD (or BlueRay… I'm so behind the times)
3: Authors, Editors, and Publishers aren't always very trustworthy and/or scrupulous as to what they'll write/publish and pass as children-appropriate.
Here's the truth. Parents are the best rating system for their kids.
Parents, read the books your kids are reading. Know what's out there. Or if you don't have the time or wherewithal to read them, there are plenty of resources to evaluate their appropriateness within your own particular definition of appropriate.
It would be a mistake to assume that some subjective board of fallable humans slapping ratings on a book will protect your kids from whatever it is you deem dangerous or harmful.
Just as it would be dangerous to assume that everything sold as a children's book is fit for children.
Go VacuumQueen at 7:08! Let's hear it for running the home, reading to your kids and being as best a parent as you can manage. And, you know people, be fair to those who can't pre-read everything our kids read, we writing Mums also try to read something adult from time to time…like, a book for ourselves…in the few moments we get in a 24-hour day that are – just- for -me….I read one whole paragraph between 05:15 and 22:45 today. That was a good day.
No, don't rate them.
If the parents can't engage with their kids enough to read to/with them or help them buy their books, or take them to the library and help choose some, who can't biuld a reading list from google and amazon, who want all their parenting responsibility for what goes into their child's heads taken away from them so that when anything hits the fan they can absolve themselves of blame, F*$% 'em. They have forfeited the right to complain.
If they have done all the above, and a kid is still reading Richard Morgan under the bed sheets then an 18 sticker on the front of the book isn't going to stop them.
Gypsy K says
I fail to see how reading what your child does is dictatorship. Also, parents are parents because a child NEEDS someone proffering SOME restrictions. Boundaries are good. Like you can't drive until you have a liscence, you can't drink until your 21. Just because they CAN do something doesn't mean they SHOULD.
But on another note, it seems these systems are more conviently doing the parenting FOR the parent. 'ooh shiny new label that says this is ok, right on I don't have to worry about it!"
No, maybe you can't read EVERYTHING but have SOME faith in your parenting ability that you raised them to know right and wrong.
Tia Nevitt says
Rather than a ratings system, I think booksellers should be honest about what they are selling. YA books back in the 70s and 80s were pretty safe. But boundaries are always being pushed, until nowadays, too many parents feel that they have to read their children's stuff first.
Sure, lots of kids have money and buy stuff without their parents knowing, but surely they can institute a system that doesn't put then in direct conflict with parents.
Why not come up with a category of novels that pushes the boundaries? Call it something like "Graduate Novels" or "College Novels". That would appeal to kids and keep publishers' relationships with parents cordial.
This reminds me of a deal I saw on Publishers Marketplace the other day that knocked the bejezus out of me.
I'm leaning towards "great idea" but not entirely committed.
I wrote a blog post about it.
Catherine Hughes says
I have four kids aged 7–16. And, when I was a young adult myself, I was a voracious reader.
Ratings would be useless. If they weren't an added push to cantankerous kids to read the book rather than avoid it, they'd be a nuisance to many children who read way ahead of their age group and who could handle with ease the content likely to be restricted to them.
I fear that booksellers would find having to police such restrictions a burden, and what point would they serve if not policed and enforced? A content rating might even prove a disincentive to stock a particular book.
If, instead, the content rating is provided merely to inform parents – well, to what end? As another mother of four has said earlier, it is impossible to know all that your kids are reading all of the time – a content advisory only works if you actually see the book before your child reads it.
Here's another thought – would you rather your sixteen year old daughter explored and discovered her sexuality through reading or through practise? Would you rather your fifteen year old son absorbed the lessons about drug use through a novel by an author he respects – who handles the subject with aplomb and respect – or through listening to his mates whilst tuning out your constant lectures? We all like to think that we can tell it to our kids better than anyone else – but can we? Really? I know I buy certain books for my kids because they've been written by better authors than I; authors who can touch the soul of an angsty teen and know just the right words to say. Words that remain available to the child whilst the book does.
One final thought – shouldn't we credit our kids with some intelligence? If they come across something that peturbs them or distresses them, they can close the book and/or come and talk about it. Most of them will, and those that can't make that decision are going to be bombarded with imagery from a whole host of other sources anyway.
Lydia Sharp says
(No time to read all the comments before posting, so I apologize if this has already been said.)
I remember there being a big "to do" about ratings when they first started slapping those symbols on video games and popping them into the upper right corner of the TV screen whenever a new show started. I had thought it was an annoyance, but I didn't have kids at the time.
I have a 5 year old boy now, who likes to view/play/read pretty much anything he can get his hands on. The rating symbols on video games in particular have been a real time-saver for me. Even if the people doing the ratings don't do it exactly how I would personally rate an item, it's close enough to still be of help.
Two cents complete. Keep the change.
Christine H says
I'm with Heather. It's just too hard to keep up with everything our kids are doing, and a quick flag would really help. That doesn't mean that the book would definitely be forbidden, but it would tell me, "look closely at this one."
And example is a friend's experience with a series that her son was reading. The first book was apparently quite innocuous and touted as being similar to the Narnia series. The second book jumped to much more violent and adult themes, and she had no idea!!! She was quite upset when she found out what her son was reading. She had assumed that the series would continue in similar vein, and it didn't.
I don't think that children's books would get a bump for being more violent the way movies do, because it is the parents, not the kids, who would be controlling the selection. Libraries as well.
Christine H says
"I not only wish kid books were rated, I wish adult books were too. So often, I've picked up a book thinking "ooo, sounds great!" and then am greeted with a graphic account of incest, child abuse, what have you – something I didn't want in my head."
I agree with this statement too, Mystery Robin!!! Totally! I can watch the news or listen to the latest troubles of my friends if I want ot hear that stuff. When I read, I want to escape and be entertained.
Christine H says
"Here's another thought – would you rather your sixteen year old daughter explored and discovered her sexuality through reading or through practise?"
Depending on what she is reading, that might encourage the practise!
Catherine Hughes says
Heh heh – that's true, it might (encourage the practise) but the point I am trying to make is that kids need to learn – even about violence and sex and drug abuse – and books are perhaps the safest and most thought-provoking way for them to do that.
I'm not against a sixteen year old deciding that she wants to have a sex life. I'm saying that she can learn a great deal about herself though reading BEFORE she takes that leap.
Annie Reynolds says
I'm sorry but after spurting coffee all aver my bed while reading the book my 13 year old daughter had just finished is an experience I would prefer not to repeat.
I know our kids grow up fast these days but I do believe they are entitled to have some semblance of a child hood without having to deal with learning about giving a boy a B.J. (I know you know what I mean so stop laughing)
I know our kids are worldly but it would be nice to preserve their innocence for as long as possible.
I agree that a rating is only effective if people bother to read or take notice of them. I know I may be in the minority, but I would definitely be one who would appreciate the heads up. (all pun intended)
As a parent of a young advanced girl I would love it, not just for me, but so my daughter can make informed decisions for herself. But I can also see where younger kids then might purposely pick up those books that say sexual content or violence. So I guess its better not to have them rated. I see it causing more problems than solving problems.
There's already too much censorship going on.
1) Since reading among kids is on the decline, I don't think kids should be discouraged from reading anything.
2) Reading something has a lot less impact than a visual, so killing someone in a book is not gonna scare a kid as much as when it happens on a film.
3) Kids books are already suitable for kids, so adding a rating system is only going to cost money.
4) If parents want to restrict what their kids watch, play and read, they should take the time to look at the product themselves.
5) Discussing why you think something is inappropriate is a lot better than outright forbidding it.
Catherine Hughes says
The thing is though that we re forgetting context. Books that contain explicit sexual content aren't usually otherwise written as if aimed at ten year olds. A child who is not ready to read such stuff will almost certainly give up on the book long before (s)he gets to that point.
I don't want my thirteen year old reading a book that describes in detail how to carry out various sexual manoeuvres but I don't worry about it because I know that she won't ever read that type of book – it would bore her to tears!
Context is its own content rating, in a way.
Mystery Robin, how do you know what your kid is ready for? Kids are a lot sturdier than adults give them credit for. You don't want to give an 8-year-old a book about child abuse, but the occasional death of a fictional person might just prepare her for the real deal.
We already use ratings…it's called YA, completely differenct from children's chapter books, MG, and picture books. I'm sorry but if your child is reading YA, that means yes, they probably are reading something that's maturer in nature. If your child reads everything under the sun and they're not mature enough to undersand what's happening in YA, that's up to the parent to watch what they're reading.
My biggest problem with this ratings idea is who gets to decide the system? Will one publisher be more stringent than another? What if a parent doesn't like gay relationships in a story? Will there be an outrage over having different ratings for that? What about rape? What about falling in love? And yes, I do think a rating system would impact the library systems because they depend on funding. How long before someone threatens to pull money if a library wants to buy books rated R or PG 13?
Sorry about ranting but this is such a touchy subject to me.
As a mother it is nice to have some sort of warning if there are objectionable elements in a book that my child wants to read (and when your child reads faster than you do it's hard to stay ahead of them), but I would be concerned that as an author I'd be coerced into writing things into or eliminating things in my book just to get a specific rating like they do in movies. It seems to be the kiss of death for a movie to be rated G. Maybe it would be better just to have warnings for racy content like on CDs.
As a blogger and book reviewer I always include a Cleanness Score on the books I review (1-10 scale of how racy/violent it is) because I think it's nice for people to know what they are in for when they pick up a book. Some parents are more protective than others and that is their right.
Angelia Almos says
Not to keen on the idea of ratings as someone will make the choice of what goes into what rating.
But I do think content warnings might be interesting. Whether on the back jacket or on the copyright page. It would be nice to know if graphic violence is described. I know by picking up a Nora Roberts book or Linda Howard book that there will be graphic sex, but someone who hasn't read them before might not know that and a note stating graphic sex would probably help.
Yet, it could be a slippery slope depending on how the content warning system would be managed.
Anon 11:32 — "Bullshit in a bag?"
Ha! I've never heard that expression before, but I think I'm in love with it. I've just had one of the worst weeks of my life — hell, is it only Thursday? That describes my entire week, including the two rejections I got yesterday and the one that greeted me this morning in my inbox.
Bullshit in a bag, indeed. Ha!
(and yeah, I commented before, no to ratings. If parents want to know what's in a book flip it open and skim it for all of three seconds, you'll find out what you need, hell if people don't make such a damn big deal over nothing!)
Teh Awe-Some Sauce says
I'm a little surprised about this even being a topic. Are people really that clueless when it comes to the different categories in children's literature?
I'm sure someone already mentioned this, but YA is categorized as fourteen and up. That's right, FOURTEEN and up. I don't know what the rest of you were doing at that age, but I'd already had both of my friends lose their virginity and one go through a pregnancy scare, and this was not some rough and tumble inner city school. This was *gasp* the SUBURBS! The idea that kids can't deal with sexual content at that age is silly, and a little short sighted.
If you just read the back copy you really can't really be surprised what the content is in a book. Most writers stick to a simliar level of "edgy". For example, is anyone really surprised that Ellen Hopkins' new book about teen prostituion has sex? You are? Well, maybe you should try this new thing called google.
The bottom line is, being a parent is not easy. That's what makes it so worthwhile. If you wanted easy you should have bought a goldfish instead. And yes, I am a parent.
(On a side note, I find most of the folks who endorse ratings and content advisories/warnings are also the same people who tout less governmental interference and more personal freedoms. Just saying.)
It seems to me that a rating system is to make the parents feel good, and actually has very little to do with what helps or harms the children. It's mostly a matter of the parents strongly disliking something, and therefore making sure their kid is going to bloody well dislike it too. Or else.
Genuine education is not for the purposes of building an even stronger wall around what we already think. It's explicitly for the purpose of teaching kids things they (and even their parents!) don't already know, but need to know about the wider world.
If a child isn't ready to deal with the content of a book, the chances are that the stuff will slide right past them. Or at most, it will provide a fantastic opportunity for discussion, explanation, and exploration.
No one can possibly go through the pages of the six books your teens pick up in bookstore and scan them for explicit material. I suppose I could say, put them down girls let's run home (a half an hour a way) and check the internet to see what they say about them, OR if there was a rating system we could just look at the cover. AND BELIEVE IT OR NOT they are the ones that don't like to read that stuff, and I allow them to read what they want!
And everyone with small children saying it's a bad idea, just read the books before your kid does, your day is coming. Just wait until more than one of your kids are going through 130,000 words in two or less days. I'm not sure how any parent, working/writing or not, can keep up with that!
David J Griffin says
Hi, I don't think that ratings for children's books should be needed, for the reason that overt sexual content shouldn't be included in those type of books in the first place.
The same for heavy descriptions of violence; what are the agents and publishers up to if they are allowing such content in children's books?
Surely there must be some sort of censoring for the under 16's before anything gets into print.
Wicked Lovley would be PG. I've read them and not because I was sensoring, but because my teens liked them. Try PC Cast books if you would like an example of what were talking about. I mean seriously, who would think a book with a MC name of Zoey Redbird could go there?
Joseph L. Selby says
If ever I needed reasons to not want ratings for children's books, reading some of the comments here on why there should be ratings fills that need.
I don't think I would have loved reading as much as I did as a kid (and therefore now) if I had been monitored by a rating system. I started with Stephen King when I was seven and I'm sure he would have been at least an R for all of the cursing, let alone the monsters and sex.
I've actually had this discussion with my husband already – we'll follow the rating system when it comes to movies, but when it comes to books, the kids can read what interests them – even if that happens to be monsters and sex.
Phyl's alluded to something much darker there I didn't think about…..content description gives the ignorant and uneducated parent another mallet to thwack their child's education with….has religious iconography in it? !TWANGGG! Contains some bad Language? !TWANGG! Shines a sympathetic like on the muslim faith? !twangg-twangg-twangg!
"I'm not having MY child's mind polluted in such ways!
Besides – you wanna control a 13 year old girl reading about BJ's? Well don't let them have any friends for a start because that'll be what they're talking about. Did you think they only discussed Barbie's until they we're 16 then just magicked into saxual maturity?? What about Boys talking about splitting people's heads open with axes?? I was doing that at 10. I haven't killed anyone yet, but then again I haven't met Max Clifford in the flesh.
As much as the simple ideals of a rating system seem to make sense all they will be used for is a tool for lazy parents who can't work out that Anne Rice is too adult for a 10 year old. Well those rules are applied en masse everyone is ground down to the lowest denominator
I think this falls along the same line as movies and video games–just because a movie has a PG-13 rating, it doesn't mean I won't let my son watch it. I may watch the movie first, but if he really wanted to watch it, I'd let him. The rating just prepares me to know what issues I might need to address with him after he watches the movie.
angelique L'Amour says
i think it would be helpful to have guidance–I will never believe in banning books however. if you look at movie ratings they may say–pg for language and mild sexuality–that kind of thing would be great. I am teaching 6th grade lit this year and I think there is a missing distinction in books—most 9-12 year old mg is too young for my class but there is such an enormous range in YA that it is frustrating to find books to read in class. I have high achieving kids but don't want books with sexual content. There also is a huge amount of apocalyptic fiction out there right now which I am not sure I want to use.
I have dealt with this for years as my now 11 year old daughter read the 6th HP book at 7 in about 3 days. Keeping content appropriate while keeping her reading at her level has been tough. It is nice now that she is older.
i head to Amazon.co.uk to find books for her as well because it seems that UK publishers believe their 9-12 year olds can read at a higher level so the books are more of a challenge.
Watery Tart says
My thought is that some kids are ready for some stuff, and others aren't. Games warn 'mature for violence, language' and we know the reason. I like my kids to push themselves with reading, but frankly, I like to read the really violent stuff first to make sure it isn't gratuitous or there is appropriate reflection on in (still let them read it–just want to be able to talk to them about it)–where as language or sexual content doesn't really concern me (they get more on the school ground for the former, and TV on the latter). So I like the idea that we have a tool to help prescreen.
I worry a little about PARENTS who think kids shouldn't be exposed to some kinds of content at all, but there's nothing I can do about that.
Amber Argyle-Smith says
I've read YA books that absolutely shocked me. I would not be okay with my kids reading these books. Especially since my son reads 3 grade levels above his age. He CAN read those books, BUT HE SHOULDN'T.
As a parent, I find it hard to keep up with all the books he wants to read. A rating system would help me a great deal.
You can't assume that just because it's a YA book, that it will be free of sex and graphic violence.
I lean toward yes. I'm about to be a first time mother so I can't say I have experience with my own kids yet.
However, being the older sister to 6 (4 girls and 2 boys) as well as working with children for over a decade, once kids hit YA reading age there is a massive range of content that may be simply undigestable for them. I'm talking themes, vocab, the gambit really.
(E.G. I think back to my father giving me Catcher in the Rye at 10. To impress him I read it quickly, but thought "Boring. What's the big deal? Some guy wanders the streets." I just didn't get it the same way I 'got it' when I was in late high school and college)
I think any ratings should be guidelines and SHOULD NOT prevent the sale of books to some one under 13 or whatever, as kids mature differently.
But guidelines of some sort would be nice.
It might have allowed for better discussions between two of my sisters and their mothers when it came time to reading the Twilight saga. As it was, I read the entire thing so I could manage discussions with them.
I don't advocate censorship in literature AT ALL, but with a plethora of material out there and the young American attention span atrophying as it seems to be this may need to be a necessary evolution.
It can be a scary world out there.
When I was a kid, all the parents banded together or at least the "rules" were the same from household to household.
These days, you can live in a nice neighborhood and the rules next door and down the street are completely different.
Some parents do drugs and hand out condoms while signing the "I do not supply for kids" school list. Others look the other way. Others look and ask and get criticized for it. Others look and don't see.
It's very hard to know what your kid is going to be exposed to.
But holding a clear line on your own family's standards and values and having discussions about the confusion is important.
I too about spit up when I realized a few things about what is out there that I didn't see.
Darn it. I liked being more innocent.
I also think NO on this question because I still believe that parents need the freedom and right to decide, and sometimes–even in a family–that changes child by child.
Still, I like it much better when certain stuff stays OUT of my head and especially away from my kittens!
Here's an idea: let authors write their own content ratings.
Publishers could put a little Rating corner on book covers (not required, but encouraged for YA books), and authors could put whatever they wanted there. For example: "Author's Warning to Parents: this book contains non-explicit sexual situations and the occasional use of profanity". The author could opt out completely and just put "No rating information provided" if they chose.
Alternatively, publishers could include a whole Content Advisory page in the front of the book where the author could provide more detailed explanations and/or justifications for the controversial/possibly offensive content they chose to write.
This would all be up to the writer, not dictated by the publisher, and it would not be enforced by Congress or anyone else. If authors didn't like being rated, then no rating, and readers could just take that into account when they picked up the book, like when you see an NR movie (could be tame, could have such graphic content it wasn't even submitted to the MPAA). This sure would have been helpful in the case of Neil Gaiman's Stardust, which slipped under my radar as an innocent kid's fantasy story with a kid's movie based on it, and ending up having fairly explicit sexual encounters depicted.
MPAA-style ratings are dangerous because they encourage across-the-board generalizations (e.g., "all G-rated films are okay for my kids", when many are actually mind-numbing and destructive and should be avoided). I generally ignore videogame ratings but pay a LOT of attention to the content warning (Nudity, Extreme Gore, etc.) to get an idea whether a piece of media is going to contain things I don't want in my home. I appreciate it very much when a PG-13 film (which could be anything from Lord of the Rings' violence to Titanic's frontal nudity) includes content warnings next to the rating. It gives me an idea of whether this is a good show with some mature themes and a couple of swearwords, or a push-the-boundaries-of-decency show I wouldn't want impressionable youngsters watching.
I could be the only one I know who threw up watching the movie A Clockwork Orange or who ran OUT of the theater and did NOT look back just before that (you know) scene in Deliverance.
Jason Kurtz says
As a high school teacher for over ten years, I inevitably have students come back and visit me after I have had them in class. They often tell me “This book changed my life.” That is a powerful statement. Yet that is how we all were at that age. We experienced life changing events on a regular basis in high school. First car, first kiss, first fist fight, first drink, first bouts of depression.
I teach mostly freshmen, ages 14 or 15-year-olds. What if the book that “changed his or her life” was denied that reader because it was rated for +16 and up? Or “R”? Books can show teens that there are alternatives out there, and that the world is wide. Do books save kids from suicide? Do books encourage sexual behavior? Studies show that this really is not the case. Yet, by being presented with the vicarious experiences that some students enjoy when reading YA “problem novels” they can make their own decisions which are based on the moral and ethical codes that they have been brought up with.
When was the last time someone said to you, “This video game changed my life!” or movie etc. The reading experience is much different than the viewing experience. When you are viewing something, you are watching someone else’s interpretation of events. When you are reading you are interpreting those events for yourself. There is a reason why most people believe that when a film is made from a book, it is a far inferior experience. It is not theirs. The caveat to this argument is that music albums have lyrics that are moving and meaningful and are sadly labeled.
There is no substitute for paying attention to what your kids are reading, watching, playing, and listening to. Parents are the gatekeepers for their own children, not some industry or government agency scapegoat. Allow the gate to remain open.
I sneaked-borrowed books from the library that I wasn't supposed to read (girl inappropriate in a big way then) and got BUSTED when the books turned up on the overdue list and my name and the titles were read out loud to my classmates who HOOTED at me!
They were from the OTHER side of the "When I grow up I want to be a…" series.
"When I grow up, I want to be a Fireman"
"When I grow up I want to be a Policeman"
and there I was, in the fifties, just wanting to explore my options.
Empress Awesome says
People buy movies and videogames no matter what the rating says, even if they shouldn't… but at least nobody can get sued or something, because all the info is provided.
I think it's a great idea! I wonder why nobody thought of it before.
Deb Lehman says
No, I don't think children's books should be rated like movies. I don't want a stranger deciding which books my children can or cannot read. There is a definite danger of censorship. I believe the choice should remain a personal and moral one.
I worked as an art teacher in a school where there was heavy religious censorship of children.
When a couple of really nice boys who had recently seen and loved a pirate movie drew swords stabbing a female stick figure in the back of a notebook, fooling around one day, all h— broke loose. The principal called a morality meeting with the student, the assistant principal, the parents, and me. They seriously believed he would grow up to become a woman slasher and made him pray for forgiveness. The poor kid cried and worried that somehow he had hurt his mother by this drawing.I felt really badly for the boy.
I was not allowed to speak because I had different views.I did not see this as harmful. Just boys being silly really. However, they saw this as seriously delinquent behavior. I was thereafter given a directive to report any acting out behavior of any student expressing something possibly anti-Christian.
This kind of censorship can really get out of hand.
I moved on. Aside from abstract art and approved subjects, art was considered a dangerous subject in that school.
I sure hope that kid is okay today.
The problem is–and always has been–that the few try to dictate over the many. A few people disagree with a young adult fantasy series that contains magic, so they label it "satanic" and get it banned from the schools so NO ONE can enjoy them.
If you want to censor your children's books, that's certainly your perogative, but a subjective rating system would only pave the road to censorship and give the few closed-minded idiots out there yet another way to force their views on the rest of us.
I have to say no way, beyond what is considered grade level indications. Simply because ratings are so prejudicial in terms of who is doing the rating. I know one very good series by Usborne was banned by many fundamentalists because in a history text on the Olympics a teensy bit of hair below the navel was shown in a drawing of a clothed runner(nevermind the actual Olympians competed nude!). It was an extreme reaction to a non-issue. I have three kids and when young I was able to determine what was appropriate easily. Once they read older material it didn't take me long to review what they were reading, especially as we clung to classic texts. I don't mind if a warning existed for D, L, or SC like TV, but the idea of warning for concepts would push many classics out of reach. And school boards are traditionally overreactive to anything that might be potentially offensive to anyone.
If you teach your kids to be critical thinkers, you don't have to worry so much about what they read.
I read to my kids then with my kids. We had discussions about the books we read. If something was questionable, we could discuss it critically.
There is never a need for censorship if you are actively involved in your child's life. A rating system could lead so easily to school and library censorship.