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?