Hi everyone! I was originally going to do a different topic for today, but I was inspired by a post on Fable’s Library about Safe YA, books that it’s safe for I guess younger teenagers to read? Now her post was just a list of suggestions of books that young teens could read, it had nothing to do with censorship, but it got me thinking (because her post was inspired by parents in Barnes and Noble saying they had to read a book first to check that it was safe for their kid to read) about whether parents really should censor what their children read or not.
I know, I know, a lot of people would probably say, of course parents should check that what their child is reading is safe, you don’t want your child reading something that is not age appropriate, that has a lot of swearing or violence or sex. It’s natural for a parent to want to protect their child against something that they think might hurt them and naturally there are some books that aren’t appropriate for certain ages, for instance, you wouldn’t give something like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to an eight year old, that’s just being a responsible parent.
However, I think there’s a fine line between being a responsible parent and censoring what your child is reading. I know that when I was a kid, my parents allowed me to read what I wanted. I don’t ever remember them saying, “you can’t read this, it’s not appropriate” or “I need to read that, to make sure it’s appropriate for you”, they trusted that I was able to make my own decisions about what I wanted to read. Kids are pretty good at self censoring, if something makes them uncomfortable, they will put it down and they tend to be interested in stuff that’s age appropriate anyway, when I was a little kid, I’d read stuff about fairies and unicorns and that kind of thing, I wasn’t looking to read books about sex or violence or anything like that and when I grew up and my interests changed, I looked for books that reflected my new interests and I’d imagine for most readers this is the same. Kids will decide for themselves when they are ready to read something, and by all means, discuss it with them if you really think a book they’re reading is inappropriate, explain why and tell them they can try it again when they’re older, but don’t just outright say you can’t read that. They won’t take it well and if you discourage a kid from reading something that they’re interested in, then they might lose interest in reading.
Censorship is a very slippery slope. You start by censoring things that aren’t age appropriate to your child which you don’t think they’re ready for but then some parents might take it too far and censor stuff that they don’t believe their child should read because it’s against their personal beliefs, for instance books that have LGBT or anti-religious messages or have teenagers having sex before marriage etc. That is wrong. Completely wrong. Children and teenagers need to have access to books that widen their world view and I think it’s wrong for parents to restrict their child’s reading based on their own personal beliefs because it forces the child to accept their view on the world, rather than allowing them to develop their own.
I also think that most of the things that parents want to censor from kids are things that they come across at a young age anyway. I don’t know about everyone else, but we had sex education at my primary school, I was nine, I think, when I first learned what sex was and I’m also pretty sure that I knew swear words at a young age, so I really don’t think reading books with the occasional swear word did me much harm. Violence is everywhere in the world, it’s on the news, it’s in video games, it’s a reality of life. I don’t think it really does kids any good to shield them from these things.
Personally, I started reading adult books when I was about 12/13 (Jodi Picoult’s books were my first foray into adult fiction), there were adult books that interested me and I had no difficulty comprehending them. That was my personal decision and I reckon that kids should be able to decide when they themselves feel that they are ready for certain books. You can’t protect kids from the world, they will find out about the harsh realities of the world at some point and I think reading is a great (and safe) way of exploring difficult subjects, plus it can open up a dialogue between parents and their children about these subjects which I think is only a good thing. The only way for kids to decide what they do and don’t like in books is to expose them to it, for instance I would never have decided that I wasn’t keen on explicit sex scenes in books if my parents had never allowed me to read a book with an explicit sex scene in. The things that parents want to protect their kids from in books, they are going to come across in real life anyway, you can’t protect them from everything.
As well as opening up a dialogue between parent and child if there are issues in a book that a kid doesn’t fully understand, I think allowing kids to choose their own books shows them that you trust them to make their own decisions. It’s good to talk to your kids about what they are reading, they appreciate it (as a voracious reader as a child, and still now, I loved (and still do love) talking about the books I read) but banning them from certain books isn’t going to do them any good, they will just read it anyway. I know I probably read books when I was a kid that might have gone over my head a little at the time, but the beauty of reading is that books are always there, you can always read a book again later on and it probably won’t have done you any harm to have read that book when you were younger, you just might appreciate it more the second time around.
I am not a parent, but I do know that I was very glad that my parents never kept me from reading anything that I wanted to read and if I ever had kids, I wouldn’t want to keep them from anything that they wanted to read either (within reason), I would want them to be able to explore all that books have to offer, in the same way that I was.
So over to you. If you are a parent, do you stop your child from reading certain books? Why? If you are not a parent, did your parents ever prevent you from reading certain books? Do you think there is a fine line between censorship and responsible parenting? Let me know in the comments!
I want to try and get one more discussion post in before the month is over (ambitious I know, but I want to try!), but if I don’t then the next one will probably still be next week anyway since July starts next week (can you believe it’s July already!). In the meantime though, my next post will be my Top Ten Tuesday post on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that!