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Booking Through Thursday: Age-INappropriate

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In contrast to last week’s question–What do you think of censoring books BECAUSE of their intended age? Say, books too “old” for your kids to read?

I tend to be torn on the subject of censorship, especially when it comes to books. On one hand, there are subjects that I–as an individual with my own personal beliefs–am uncomfortable with and would “prefer” maybe to not see spread. On the other hand, I fully believe that everyone should have the freedom to choose what we read, just as we have a choice in what we DO with what we read.

I’m honestly disgusted when I hear about schools banning entire books for a single instance of a single word, or for the historically-accurate use of a particular word in-context in a piece of historical fiction. Or when adults would apply a one-size-fits-all directive to hand down without accounting for the fact that everyone is unique, and just because one 9-year old might be too immature or simply “not ready” to handle or deal with certain material does not mean that another 9-year old hasn’t already faced something in real life and its presence in a book might be cathartic. (and any combination of situations in-between, etc.)

Given all that, I believe very firmly in having a ratings system. Some might say that even giving something a “rating” such as “MA 17” or simply “MA” for “Mature Audiences/over-17/over-18” or “A” or “K” for “All-ages/Kids” or such is censoring…but really, ratings are a guide. Sure, kids may intentionally seek out something rated for adults out of curiosity or simply because the subject matter interests them. (While books are not movies, I always remember Alien3. I’d gotten my hands on the book, and read it, but had to convince my mom to let me see the movie (I think I was 12 at the time and the movie’s rated R).

By applying a ratings system, it serves as a guide. Readers can determine what they’re up for or interested in–if they’re interested based specifically on the rating or how “age-appropriate” the material is.

And I also believe very firmly that if parents or other adults are particularly concerned about the age appropriateness of material, it’s on them to voice exactly why, and to share that with others, and still allow them to make a choice.

If I had children and they were interested in, say, Harry Potter (to take an easy shot)…it would be my responsibility to share the experience with them, and to express my feelings about it. I mean…I greatly enjoyed the series in and of itself, but also saw plenty of stuff that would make for valuable conversations with young readers.

On the comics side of things, comics are not “just for kids.” DC Comics has their Vertigo line, comics generally intended as being for adults. I would not hand The Sandman, Preacher, Y: The Last Man, or Hellblazer to a young child blindly. But particularly in the case of The Sandman, if a young reader is particularly interested I do not believe they should be hindered.

I do find it acceptable to separate graphic novels between “adult” and “non-adult” in libraries. I’m uncomfortable with–in a library setting–shelving the likes of Bone and Owly in a kids or intended-for-young-teens section with Preacher and Hellblazer right alongside ’em.

BUT even if everything’s separated specifically by age groups…no one should be DIScouraged from reading, in my mind. Reading’s highly important. And if the 60-year-old wants to look at the picturebooks, he should be allowed; and if the 9-year-old is ready to read something traditionally aimed at adults, she should be allowed as well.

[I’ve run out of time for writing at present…surely this is a far deeper topic that I could write much longer and at length on…and which–if I were writing academically–would certainly benefit from better organization of thoughts, rather than this stream-of-consciousness freeform this morning. Thoughts/questions/etc? Please post in the comments…]

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