Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What's appropriate?

OK, who's ten and in sixth grade, came home with a book the other day. She'd asked the librarian for a "really scary book," and the librarian suggested this one. I picked it up tonight and paged through it and got annoyed. I'm really pretty permissive about reading, but this book just was not appropriate for a sixth grader, IMHO. Here's why:

The words "screwed," "bitch," "shit," "pissed off," and "bastard," among other rough language, were used.

More relevant, here are a few aspects of the plot that had adult themes: A young woman in the book has sex with her “boyfriend,” who then casually dumps her and sleeps with another girl instead. The young woman is then almost raped by the boyfriend’s brother, and she’s so distressed that she tries to commit suicide by ingesting a bottle of pills. Another teenaged character becomes pregnant and is urged to have an abortion by an adult in the book, who gives a long explanation of why abortion is perfectly acceptable and even desirable. Another thread of the story deals with spousal and child abuse, and the book ends with the murder of a parent by one of the teenaged protagonists.

Ummmm. Maybe I'm hopelessly out of touch with today's world, but this does not strike me as the kind of book I want my ten-year-old reading. This is a book for older teenagers. Certainly, parents are responsible for monitoring their children's reading-- but I happen to have a child who reads so fast that she can easily finish off a whole book (or two) during odd moments in the school day. It's quite possible for her to check out a book in the morning and have it read by the time she gets off the bus in the afternoon. So how can I prevent her from reading a book when she's not under my supervision?

Anyway, DH and I wrote a note to her English teacher. I'm trying very hard not to come across as a Wacko Book Burning type (I mean, I do write romances with explicit sex scenes-- but those are aimed at adults). I don't care if they have books like this in the library, and I'm not asking them to ban anything; I just don't want my kid getting hold of books along these lines so young. It'll be interesting to see what the response is.

On the up side, I discussed the book with her, and I don't think she understood too much of what she read:-).


  1. I have an eleven year old son in middle school. I say that book is definitely not for anyone under the age of 16 years old. And I don't believe that books should be censored. There are some things that kids simply aren't ready for and to introduce them to soon would be bad. It's like asking your eleven year old to bench press twice his weight.

  2. OH MY!

    I don't even consider it censorship, honestly. There is a reason children live with and guided by adults until their late teens.

    My 10-year-old is a total bookworm. I haven't dealt with the issues of language and sex too much yet because he prefers nonfiction, but I've had to steer him away from subjects like in-depth Holocaust books and some issues from Vietnam. Not because I don't want him to learn about them, but because I don't think he has the emotional maturity to process certain things.

    It's not an easy job.

  3. I would not let my ten year old daughter read a book with those words and phrases in it. She's in fifth grade, and there is no reason for her to be exposed to that kind of writing yet. Like your daughter, my daughter probably wouldn't understand what she was reading, but still, I wouldn't want her even pondering the meaning of such things yet.

    Good for you for standing up to the librarian!