That's easier said than done. Once upon a time, I said something to the effect that kids should read books that have protagonists of a similar age.
My thinking behind that broad generalization is that I had read somewhere (but can't for the life of me find the source) that J.K. Rowling imagined her readers to be the same age as Harry, Hermione, and Ron. For reference, she was writing for eleven year old kids with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and she was writing for a seventeen year old audience when she wrote Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
That makes sense to me, as the novels become increasingly dark, and include romance, snogging, and swearing as the characters age.
This presents a problem, as now readers of all ages have access to all of the books at the same time and are not forced to wait for release dates as we were.
So, what's a parent to do? I guess I didn't really mean what I said about ages and protagonists, because personally, I'd let an 11 year old rip through the whole series because I've read it and I think it's okay for my 11 year old.
I also know that literature means different things to different age groups. I've read and re-read my favorite books at different points in my life absorbing different things every time.
For example, when I was younger (fifteen/sixteen?), I didn't really get it that in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the young girl is in danger from a serial child murderer/rapist. I don't think the word "rape" is ever used in the book. When I re-read the classic as a twenty-something, I really got it. The novel I had thought of as a nice historical novel about an alcoholic father, hard-working mother, and their numerous children, was now a story of one mother's life and death struggle to keep her family safe, fed, and together during the early 20th century.
What is "Age Appropriate?"
I don't know and neither do the experts/professionals.
There is a giant canyon of difference between reading level and age appropriateness. Truth: The Grade Level Equivalent for the Twilight books puts them right around 4th grade reading level. So we know that reading level doesn't mean squat when deciding who is ready to read what.
When I review a book, I usually pay no attention to reading level. I have a son with dyslexia who reads at a 2nd grade level but when we listen to audio books, he comprehends at a sixth grade level or above. I read The Hobbit to him when he was five. He loved it. We are going to listen to it again this summer. Now that he is ten, I'm certain he will take away different things from the book.
Is The Hobbit "age-appropriate" for your five year old? Does your child sleep well after tales of trolls, goblins, Gollum, and other creepy creatures that go bump in the night? I didn't when I was five, probably because my first exposure to Gollum was from that animated 70s movie.
|There was a lot of terrifying children's animation in the 70s.|
My son's favorite movie is Jaws. When I was little, the movie The Wizard of Oz terrified me. When my parents' tried to read The Hobbit to me, they got as far as the trolls and I freaked out. I didn't read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings trilogy until I was on bedrest, expecting my first-born, whom I seriously wanted to name "Samwise."
When I review a book, I try to point out the immoral things, if there are any, and the mature themes, if there are any, and anything else that would problematic. But honestly, I try to post a lot of positive reviews, because the garbage gets too much publicity already.
If you need a list of what you shouldn't let your child read, there are many, many places to get that info. If you'd like suggestions on what some other mom is reading and letting her kids read, this is the place. I will try to more consistent with sharing what ages I feel would most enjoy the books reviewed.
Unfortunately, there is a lot out there that is problematic, not just for kids but for anyone with a soul.
Take this scenario in a suburb just minutes from my home. Three 8th grade teachers want to use the novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower for class. Some parents don't want their kids to read porn. The dispute has gone to the school board.
In the article, I'd like to draw your attention to Items 4 and 5 as shown here:
4. “Age-appropriate” is a tricksy bit of rhetoric from the Left. It is an ambiguous adjective used by the Left to provide cover for whatever they want to present to children in their relentless quest to initiate children into the wacky world of deviant and early sexuality.
5. What does “age-appropriate” mean? When a teacher uses this term, they should be compelled to provide a definition and criteria that determine “age-appropriateness.” The vast majority of parents who express opposition to a particular book being taught in school are not arguing that their children will be traumatized by obscene language and graphic sexual content. Rather, parents are arguing that such language and sexual content are not decent, not inspiring, not edifying, not beautiful, not necessary, and not healthy. They are arguing that such language and depictions of sexuality undermine modesty and decency. They are arguing that when public schools recommend texts that include egregiously obscene and profane language, it serves to legitimize and desensitize students to offensive language—language that is prohibited by schools, newspapers, in most professional contexts, and in polite company.
I disagree with #4. "Age-appropriate" is a huge, wild beast that teachers, librarians, and parents wrestle with daily. How can I define what is age appropriate for your children? I'm having a hard enough time trying to decide what's age appropriate for mine. *throws hands up in air*
In regard to #5, as a parent I would be arguing that my children would be traumatized (not so much by the obscene language) but by the graphic sexual content. I did read the excerpts linked to and I'm traumatized by the graphic sexual content.
Does all content need to be "decent, inspiring, edifying, beautiful, necessary and healthy?" In a fallen world, is that even possible? I like Captain Underpants, so does my son, and while it doesn't fit the criteria listed, I don't think he will be traumatized by it.
Should it be taught as literature? No. Could it be used for reading practice, boosting interest in reading as a pastime, and practicing reading mechanics? Yes.
Read the article. It's both frightening and thought-provoking. And methinks that some of the English teachers in question need some more lessons on the Bill of Rights and what it really means. They could start with some animated lessons from the 1970s.