Your kids are finally reading on their own without a fight. But, Do You Know What Your Kids Are Reading? Everywhere you look there are articles aim at alerting parents of potential dangers facing their children on television and online and in video games. The concerned parent has never had as many tools or as much information available to them to protect their children. If you’ve won the battle over screen time and have managed to pull your kids away from iPads and video games you are winning in the parenting department! But, before we celebrate too soon, I have a question…
What are your kids reading?
Yes, that’s right, reading. I read an article a few years ago which said that reading skills in America ranked among the lowest in the industrialized nations of the world. The printed word was no longer viable, the interactive game was in, and civilization as we knew it was over. LCD readout had replaced ink on paper as far as kids were concerned, and there was nothing that anybody could do about it.
And then along came J.K. Rowling, Lemony Snicket, and a number of others and BANG, the Children’s/Young Adult book market took off and is now the fastest-growing market in publishing! Tens of millions of books per year are printed for the 6-15-year-old market, encompassing thousands of titles and hundreds of different sorts of subject matter. Go to any local library and the odds are that you will find that the Children’s/Young Adult section is one of the largest there is. And, of course, as children grow older and their reading skills continue to improve, the entire world of adult literature becomes available to them.
This, of course, is not a bad thing, however, even though a child has the skills to read something, the responsible parent needs to ask themselves: But do I really want them reading that yet? Is it, for example, appropriate for 8-year-olds who have the skills to do so to read The Diary of Anne Frank, even though in many cases the child may not have developed the emotional maturity to be able to handle some of the more intense and disturbing aspects of that work?
As a parent, it is important that the books you allow your child to read reflect the value system that you have tried to instill in them. Just as with the monitoring you do of what your child watches on television or what video games he plays or websites he visits, if you don’t want your child exposed to (or think that they are too young for) violence, sexual content, drug use, or anything else a Young Adult or Children’s book may contain, it is up to you to make sure that they aren’t until you feel they are ready.
As with every other part of the publishing industry, sales and sales alone drive what is published in the world of Children/Young Adult literature and the trend recently seems to be towards more sophisticated storylines which oftentimes outline many of the less positive aspects of our culture and life. As a responsible parent, it is up to you to decide when you feel your children have reached the point in their emotional development where you believe they will be able to process this sort of information without harm.
The problem then becomes: How can I possibly read all the books my children want to read before they do? Makes you wish you had an extra set of eyes, right?
There are some resources out there to help guide you. But, most of them either give you a synopsis, which frequently lacks enough details to make a truly educated decision or, they only do write-ups of the good books, which would be fine if we lived in a perfect world. But things are looking up! Commonsense Media, launched in 2005 that does that hard work. They read the book (or movie) and write reviews from a parent’s perspective. Each book is critiqued on positive and negative examples of character traits (i.e. honesty, compassion, responsibility, etc.); as well as providing specific examples of any negative areas of influence (i.e. drug usage, sexual content, violence, etc.). All of these examples will tell a parent, at a glance, if that book is appropriate for their particular child.