Parental Discretion Advised

A couple of days ago, Twitter was buzzing with tweets about banned
books. I read Nathan Bransford’s post about “where is the line between
parental discretion and censorship?
” and I agree with some commenters
that it should be parents who help kids decide what reading material
is appropriate. Removing books from the shelves because someone is
afraid her kid will happen upon a racy book — where racy is defined
by someone who may not have the same values as I do — prevents me from reading that book. Please don’t prevent me from reading stuff.

Parental discretion, when it comes to reading material and life
experiences, is obviously important. But I struggle with how much
sheltering is too much sheltering. For example, a couple of years
back, I was reading one of the Little House books aloud to my kids. At some point, the Ingalls’ dog was swept away by a raging river and presumed dead. I wanted to protect my kids from this devastating loss, so I skipped that part. Imagine my horror when the dog came back. My kids wondered why everyone was so happy to see him, when in their experience, he had never disappeared. I admitted that I’d skipped the dog’s drowning and they asked me not to skip things.

I was similarly concerned when I heard about a sad ending to one of
the Harry Potter books. My husband had been reading the series to my
daughter since she was in kindergarten and I knew she was attached to
the characters. I strongly advised my husband to figure out some way
to avoid reading that book. Distract her with another series. Buy her
a pony. But he read the book. And while my daughter was sad, she
didn’t have nearly the meltdown I’d expected. They talked about the
loss and moved on to the next book.

Now that both my kids are reading — and if I may brag, both have the
reading ability of kids three to five years older than they are — I’m
put in a position to balance reading level with material. That is, my
daughter can read at a ninth-grade level, but she’s certainly not
mature enough, as a 10-year-old, to read books written for high
schoolers. Luckily, since my kids can’t drive, their visits to the
library are supervised. They aren’t in a position to obtain grossly
inappropriate books — yet. But as a teenager, I found ways to get my
hands on that stuff and I’m sure you did, too. What then? A bridge I’m
not looking forward to crossing. I hope to cross it, however, without
the help of book-banning zealots.

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3 responses to “Parental Discretion Advised

  1. We had the reading problem with my first born. She was five years old and reading at an 8th grade level. And since she was reading 100-200 pages a day, I couldn’t always read the book before letting her have it.

    We have stayed away from Harry Potter, though, because she has nightmares when things seem too evil. But she’s been hounding me about it for two years now. I might have to give in.

    • Wow, 5 and reading 100-200 pages a day – and at an 8th-grade level! That would definitely be a challenge. What does she like to read now?

  2. You could always choose the path my mom chose. Just let me read whatever I happen to find, anywhere. I mean, I turned out fine, right? Right?