DO BOOKS NEED A RATING SYSTEM?
I recently found a couple posts by other book bloggers discussing the banning of books and what a rating system for books could entail. It was mentioned that some parents are worried about what their kids are reading and this leads to banning books either on a large level -city, province, country- or on a more personal one of just not allowing your own children to read about certain things.
Someone suggested that instead of banning books, why not have a rating system similar to movies or music? That way parents wouldn’t have to read the books themselves, they can just check the rating and decide whether they would allow their child to read it. But that could cause problems, too…
Stores could refuse to stock books with the higher ratings like NC-17 or R because they are “family-friendly” businesses. And what if all stores decided not to stock a certain book, what difference is that to book banning? In fact it would be worse, because as far as I know there hasn’t been a single book to be banned world-wide, copies are still floating around out there. But if all companies refuse to stock certain books then some stories would never get told and the world could unknowingly loose a treasure.
Parents could prevent their kids from reading certain books they feel inappropriate, no matter what the kid is mentally or emotionally capable of handling. This could cause a child to loose interest in reading because they are not permitted to read what they will enjoy; they are not being stimulated by the written word. This would lead to more illiteracy rather than less, it could lead to less books sales rather than more. Then what would be the point in becoming an author? In starting a publishing company? In owning a bookstore? They would no longer be needed and then unemployment could rise and another economical crisis could ensue.
A child’s mental and emotional grown could be stunted if a legal guardian is super-strict or has certain prejudices. People read because they can live vicariously through the characters, readers are getting important life lessons without ever having to personally experience them. Many books show the consequences of things like unprotected sex or underage drinking or stealing, the rippling effect of murder or lies or bullying.
What if someone was only allowed to read books like The Help* but not ones like Harriet’s Daughter? The kid would only be exposed to white people treating black people like second class citizens and feel it is okay, rather than knowing the horrors of slavery and the wars fought for equality among all people. It could perpetuate racism and chauvinism and discrimination rather than help eradicate it due to not being permitted to learn about both sides of a situation.
(* I have not read The Help yet myself, I have only heard that it is about a white children being raised by black servants and then treating them like second class citizens when they grow up just as their parents do. If I use this example inaccurately I deeply apologize for the error.)
Worst of all, parents would no longer need to talk with their kids. From what I’ve seen, parents rarely give their kids enough credit for knowing right from wrong, and in doing so they could cause the child to live down to their parents’ expectations so the attitude the children are receiving is at least deserved. If legal guardians just sit down and have an open discussion about things like relationships, prejudices, morality, and books it would help show a child they have someone they can talk to about anything without fear, that they have a support system behind them.
If adults feel a rating system is truly necessary, a different system is needed than that of movies because novels are a different medium. It would be rather difficult to have a universal system considering societies and countries and religious all have various ideas of what is appropriate. And even within those broad divisions, there are various branches that have varying levels of strictness or latitude within them.
Books used to have a reading level printed on the books, something I rarely see anymore. Though that system was a little generalized considering that people learn at different rates, it used to be a pretty good indication of appropriateness because if a child is no where near capable of understanding the words in a book then it is obviously not for someone that age.
Kids are sent to school to learn from books and classroom discussions, so why are parents refusing to allow them to do the same at home?
NEXT WEEK: How to Discuss Books with Your Children (WYKAR2)