This question is mostly for parents, teachers and MG/YA enthusiasts. Michelle Hodge recently started a discussion about undesirable content in books. I want to narrow that down to kids' books. I feel that if there's anywhere profanity, excessive violence, promiscuity, etc. doesn't belong, it's in books marketed to children (including teens), but I find that so many newer releases contain a lot of it. I always make parents aware of content in my reviews, and I'm torn on recommending lit that is otherwise excellent. This trend has also made me doubly careful to keep the YA books I write clean.
I know there's going to be a range of opinions of what's "too much," but I'm wondering what others think about this and what they do about it.
Also, with movies: people who appear to be under 17 aren't permitted (or technically shouldn't be permitted) without a parent. I was just wondering if you folks who feel that there should be a rating system for books feel also feel that restrictions on how old you have to be in order to purchase books with a certain "rating". If a rating system is put in place in order to protect children of a certain age from reading certain types of books, it seems logical that you would also want children who don't meet the minimum rating requirements from accessing the book.
That said, it seems like such a restriction would put an undue hardship on parents who don't mind their children reading certain material and aren't able to accompany them to a store or library in order to pick up said material.
I have no idea if the above makes sense.
Another question for the folks who'd like to see a rating system on books:
I'm assuming by "rating system" we're talking about things like the G, PG, PG-13, R ratings we see for movies, correct? As I've already pointed, children under 17 shouldn't technically be permitted into movies rated R (though whether or not movie theaters actually follow that policy varies, I'm sure). If you don't believe such restrictions should hold true for books, what exactly is the point of a rating system? What I mean is, how do you think a rating system would be better than a publisher saying "this book contains sex" or "this book contains profanity"?
I'm against censoring or banning books but I see nothing wrong with having a rating system on books or having an adult book section in bookstores where children are forbidden.
Advisory warnings do not impede on free speech but it makes it easier for some to be a parent and it helps children decide which books they want as well. My son sometimes has to put a book down when he realizes that it is more graphic than he thought it would be. Again, I do not judge the content of the books but I'm all for reviewers who warn parents and let them know that there is graphic content in them.
I would not want them to disclose "spoiler" information, but they could clearly state that there is "extensive violence" or "explicit language" or "sexual content" without disclosing information that would ruin the plot or excitement of the book for anyone.
I would have NEVER known that the latest book I put down b/c of content was that way just by the description on the cover of the book. I wish the cover had said that there was sexual content and same-sex experiences in the book because then I would have known immediately that I did not want to read it. However, the description made it seem like a sweet story and never disclosed those things.
Since everyone is different, I know it's hard to put what is there, but I think even just a general disclosure would make it easier for people to make better decisions. Some people know they don't want something with any swearing at all. Other people are okay with some swearing but not explicit use of swearing. Same goes for romance and violence. Sometimes it is hard to say what is "too much" because everyone's limit of where they draw the line is different. However, I do think that books should give a general idea of content so that people could then decide more easily if they want to take a chance on a book or not. If I am someone who does not want ANY language and a book says "explicit language used" then I know that I don't even want to pick it up. If I'm someone who doesn't mind some language and it says the same thing, then I can decide if I want to take a chance on it and stop reading if it has "too much" explicit language than I'm comfortable with. Either way, I think that there should be something to help people decide more than not saying anything at all about the content of the book.
I dont think that publishers should censor what they release, but perhaps having some kind of standard amongst different publishers would be helpful! Some publishers offer a "Teen" selection, some only Young Adult, Some have Middle Grade- while others lump it all in to Junior Fiction.
It would be nice to have a starting point when young readers are looking for books suited for them. It's hard to keep up with each publishers differences.
I still don't think "Young Adult" should be teen... but most Teenagers wouldn't agree with me :)
It is the parents responsibility to help their kids have good experiences with what they read. It is parents responsibility to raise their children and support the values that they teach... Don't limit what can be found on the shelves! Each parent, adult, child, etc is DIFFERENT for a reason! We will all have our imagination sparked by something completely unique to our own life experiences and paths. I plan to write a book based on my teenage life, will it be suitable for children? probably not- but it will be true. To each thier own
Honestly, I stopped buying YA novels by the time I was about 15. I had moved onto adult novels long before that, especially the classics, and found most YA books to be more juvenile than I wanted. At the same time, some YA novels that I read about darker topics were the novels I thought back on years later when faced with tough situations, for example, helping someone I knew who was struggling with anorexia. Also, just because someone reads about a character making bad decisions doesn't mean that person will make those decisions him/herself. Teenagers are quite capable of independent thought and of making their own decisions, and in many cases will see troubled characters as warnings about what not to do.
I think that is a legitimate reason for writing about some tough topics. I do appreciate when the consequences of bad choices aren't glossed over.
I have no problem with a character making bad choices, it wouldn't be realistic if they didn't. I have no problem with the fact that a lot of literature has tough situations- thats life. I just prefer to see realistic consequences for those choices. I feel like often times the good is exaggerated and the consequence down played. I wish it was easier for my kids to choose the books they want knowing what kind of content will come with it. It seems like they are often times stabbing in the dark if they only rely on the publishers marketing materials.
Teenagers are FULL of independant thought and that is wonderful, but with that independance some teenagers are looking for cleaner books- I work with the Girls age 12-18 at my church and most of them are frustrated looking for good reads that are clean.
I dont think that publishers should censor what they release, but perhaps having some kind of standard amongst different publishers would be helpful! Some publishers offer a "Teen" selection, some only Young Adult, Some have Middle Grade- while others lump it all in to Junior Fiction.Do you think this is a problem with how publishers categorize books or how bookstores and libraries organize the books on their shelves?
I think its a problem in general. I have seen published works miscatergorized and libraries/book stores not being consistant where novels are placed. It just doesn't seem like there is an industry standard.