Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Banning Books

With the release of "The Hunger Games" movie, there has been some talk about the appropriate age of the audience of the movie, as well as the books.  Some parents go so far as to say they will not allow their children to read "The Hunger Games", just as some parents have forbade "Harry Potter" and other books.

The thought of banning certain books in a household is somewhat foreign to me.  My mother encouraged such a love of reading, that oftentimes we were reading books that she had never read before.  We would sometimes have to stop reading a book, when we no longer felt it was appropriate, but those guidelines were never explicitly stated anywhere, they just came through our own consciences.

I don't believe in banning books.  I believe in talking with your children about what is and is not appropriate, and letting them decide from there.  Even if you do not agree with the content of a book, I think it is much better to let your child decide whether or not to read it, and then leave the lines of communication open.  Talk with your children about what they are reading.  Sometimes, a book that you disagree with can lead to some great discussions where you can lay out your opinion and discuss openly with your child.

A far better solution, in my opinion, is to put an age requirement on certain books.  Rob and I have decided that no one younger than 9 or 10 in our family should read "The Hunger Games" simply due to it's violent nature.  However, the gruesomeness in the book can lead to some very thought provoking discussions about government, rebellion, and so forth.  I would not want to give that up.

So far we have one other age limit in our house.  You must be in at least 8th grade before reading Tolkien.  This has nothing to do with the content, and everything to do with the difficulty of the book. It is a story Rob and I both love so much, that we don't want our children wading into it too early and souring on the complexity of it.

But what about if you get a teenage daughter who only wants to read trashy romance novels?  Or a son who can't veer out of the comic books?  I think these kind of books, mind candy, as I call them, are ok in small amounts, but too much can make one feel dissatisfied with life or have false illusions of love.

Try to encourage books with more substance to them.  Read a chapter book aloud in your family.  Perhaps put a stipulation of your child reading a book you choose before another book they choose.  Then try to choose an appropriate book for their reading comprehension that still fits some of the same story lines that they love.  "Little Women", "Anne of Green Gables", "Witch of Blackbird Pond" are all wonderful stories with some romance to them.  In the action-adventure set, try "Percy Jackson", "Harry Potter", "Peter Pan", etc.

What are the reading rules like in your house?


  1. Sounds like our rules are like yours :). I have to be very careful with this with my 9 year old, but she's been blessed with teachers who specialize in gifted/talented stuff and can steer them into more difficult reading without going too far in the maturity of the book, if that makes sense. I've been really grateful for that. But I'm not a "banner." She's already read all the Harry Potters 20 some times it seems :). I wouldn't freak if she picked up Hunger Games or Twilight or something, but I'm still the one with the library cards in my wallet as well as the spending money so I simply don't purchase books for her unless I'm excited about her reading them (and believe me, I wouldn't buy her Twilight :). She now has an e-reader and has covered a broad amount of classic literature because it is free, but she asks before each download.

  2. I have never read Twilight because I am a MAJOR book snob, but after working with the 12-year-olds, at church, my heart was softened towards it. There are a lot of teenagers whose reading ability is so low that it is in danger of atrophy. I think it is good to have good books around and encourage a love of reading them, but if it is between mind candy or reading-starvation it is better to let them have the candy. Say what you will about Twilight, but it is a BIG FAT book. For readers who are still cultivating their literary abilities, the confidence they gain from finishing such a large book and being able to talk about it with their friends is priceless. Which is why I would never scoff at someone who says, "It is the best book I have ever read". It very likely is the best book they have ever read. I think if they are given time their tastes will mature and they will learn to love books that English majors won't frown at. :)

    1. I think you are right McRachie. I am happy when kids are reading, and Twilight is a perfect avenue to lead girls into Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, etc. Perhaps, what is most important is taking an active interest in what your children are reading. Perhaps a family book club?

    2. I agree that is the most important. Also even up through high school my dad would always read to us after dinner. He read a lot of classics to us. My mom taught me to read, but reading with my dad guided my taste in books, and gave us all an opportunity to discuss the book. He actually read "The Hunger Games" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy to my younger siblings who are now 15 and 17.

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