Monday, June 9, 2014

Do you censor the books your kids read?

I had a bit of a parenting dilemma this week and my readers are often great help with these things.

The background is this;
Popps is now in Grade 2 and a keen reader. I try not to choose her books for her too much as I don’t always pick the right ones and really, it’s just annoying if other people choose your books for you all the time.

At school she is encouraged to choose books that will extend her further than Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries and last week she chose a book called Chloe.



I heard about Chloe because Popps was fascinated with the book. Each night she started telling me about what was happening and how interesting this book was. “You just won’t believe this story,” she said.

Each night I was a bit concerned about what else might be coming in this book.

I was also trying to be open-minded and accept that books are ideal for learning the lives of other people in your society. Books are a unique vessel to teach us all to broaden our thinking, to consider situations from all angles, especially the ones that might make us feel uncomfortable.

I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to censor this one.

I read the entire book myself to be able to help me decide.

It is an interesting book for a junior primary school level and covers issues relating to child abuse, adoption, foster care, neglect of children, violent husbands, drug addicts and alcoholics.

These are not something that we would usually discuss around the dinner table and as far as I know Popps has no friends who would know much about these issues (though of course it is a possibility).

As she had read a third of the book already, I expected that she would probably want to read the rest, and wasn’t sure where I stood on preventing her from reading a book just because the content was awful.

However, once I had finished the book, I decided to compromise and told her she could read the book, but she was to read it at home rather than school so she could ask me questions if she needed to. I also told her it was a day time book, not a before sleep time book. She asked if there were any scary bits and I told her exactly what happens, and the part I thought she would be uncomfortable with, which is when a violent drunken father smashes in the door to steal his toddler back, and 13 year old Chloe is home alone with the baby and needs to save him from this scary man.

In this instance, Popps has decided not to read the rest of the book herself but asked me to tell her the rest of the story, which I did.

The parenting dilemma is, should we censor what our children read? If so, to what extent? I would like to throw out all the Captain Underpants books that don’t even spell words correctly. I’d like to have a limit on how many Wimpy Kids books can be read in one month and while I enjoy many Dr Seuss books I would like to have Go Dog Go removed from the house for awhile.

Books can teach us everything, but are there some that we need to wait to read?

Let me know what you think?




20 comments:

  1. As you know my little lady is in Kindergarten this year and I started reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid to her because she has seen a snippet of the movie. I have to admit, after starting the book, I decided she was a bit too young, mainly because her behavior changed and she would mimic parts of the book. But I am an avid reader and have also been one, so it is hard to limit what she reads (or has read to her). It is just so hard to know. But I think how you handled Popps and Chloe was excellent.

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  2. This is a really tough one for me, as I like to think I will be broadminded (for all the reasons you outline), but I also know I may wimp out at the last minute. I was all "SHUT UP NANNY-STATERS!" when people made overtures to modernising Noddy, and then I read a vintage one to my kids and found myself making up a whole new story when it got very racist very fast. So. I don't know. But I'm going to have to come up with a plan soon!

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  3. I did for a while (sort of) by being the one who went to the library and chose the books (the ones she was choosing at school at that really tricky stage of being 7-9 and an excellent reader were all non fiction). Now she's 11 - she's reading stuff that a lot of people may think is inappropriate for her but I don't even remember being censored and I'm in no hurry to do it to her either.

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    1. It is a tricky age isn't it. I seem to be constantly looking for books and every bookshop just has the same thing Dahl, Blyton, and awful modern diaries that are really pretty average.

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  4. It's hard isn't it? My Y1 loves EJ the Spy series and these are pretty tame, but I agree that it's hard to always monitor what they read at school. I think some of those topics in the Chloe book sound full on, it certainly wouldn't be my first choice for my girl, unless she was dealing with some of these issues herself but it's hard because it's also life. Just another issues us parents have to deal with right?

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  5. I was really torn about the whole censorship thing - my parents didn't censor my reading material (unless you can count confiscating "The Happy Hooker" when I was about 12!) and I read pretty much anything I wanted which was everything that was printed. BUT in my day (gosh, I'm old!) there were kids books and adult books and nothing much in between.

    These days, there are so many books for the in between years, and a whole lot of them aren't very well written (looking right at Captain Underpants AND Wimpy Kid as I say this); or they're designed for 'reluctant readers' or for girls - and even if the story is genderless, the cover is too girly. I've sort of censored for the older one, and haven't censored more than reading 2-3 pages randomly in the middle for the younger one. The older is 11 with a reading age of 14 - finding stuff that's challenging and interesting with NO KISSING COS THAT'S SO GROSS has been interesting.

    We've read some of the 'new improved' Enid Blytons, a LOT of Roald Dahl who is incredibly inappropriate and cracking good fun. The 11 year old is reading Divergent, but again, it's not a before bed book; and the 8 year old - I actually have NO idea what he's reading at the moment. Probably one of the Treehouse books. Or a Paul Jennings one he stole from his brother.

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    1. For some reason the Treehouse books are not on the list here - I might just get them and see what happens.

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  6. Well handled! My son's only 4 and can't read. I read to him very often. I do censor some of the books I read because he's a real mimic. I have slightly altered Roald Dahl and more heavily altered Grimm Brothers. The rest of his books are very much kiddy books and very light-hearted.

    Have to admit I was reading Stephen King and any horror book I could get my hands on from about the age of 10. I LOVED them.

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    1. I think I would still be too scared to read those books - self censorship required!

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  7. although the book you mention isn't listed I regularly use commonsensemedia.org to get recommendations for books my son can read, they also have recommendations for apps and movies
    (sounds like an advertorial but it's not ;p)

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  8. I don't censor what the Kids read but they also haven't brought anything home from school that 'heavy'. I'm surprised that's on the list for little 7 year olds. The ones they bring home from school have all been fine so far and either I buy the books from the store myself or when they are with me and choose something from their section I have a quick look to see that they would be OK. If they came home with something like Chloe and had already made a start on it I'd probably do what you did. My daughter struggled to find good books at that age too. She's 9 now and the biggest hits from the past year have been The Fleurville Trilogy (and other books by same author), The Land of Stories and Verity Sparks....x

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  9. Hi take a look at 'a mighty girl' website for loads of book recommendations.

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  10. Ooh, tough. Well-handled. I'm a few years off this (although I'm sure it'll arrive all too quickly) but I like the way you've handled it. I'd like to read whatever my kids do so that at the very least, we can all talk about it.

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  11. Well played Claire. My eldest is only beginning to read, but I already find myself censoring stuff. Recently on holiday I was drinking out of a cup that said "Old Fart", she asked me what it said and I lied to her. I won't be able to away with that for long, I'll have to make a game plan like yours.

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  12. I wouldn't have thought that was a suitable book for a grade two-er either. You did exactly the right thing especially by being open with her. I'd even mention it to the school librarian if I were you.

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  13. That is a tough one but only you know your chid and what she can deal with. I knew my 10 year old son would be devastated by the ending of The Boy in Stripe Pyjamas so I told him the ending to prepare him for it and therefore it wasnt such a shock when it came. xx

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  14. Hi Claire, I definitely censor my kids' reading material! A few years ago, one of Tom's readers had a bit about young boys going to write graffiti on an old man's house (they did a few other things too, but details are hazy). I didn't think it was appropriate subject matter for a Grade 2 student and told his teacher about it. She was happy to remove it from the resources herself, not agreeing it should have been there either.

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  15. interesting post. As a school librarian I hate censorship. If I feel that a student might be too young to read something (ie a year 6 wants to read The Hunger Games) I ask for a note from home and feel I am covered if there was a complaint. At this end of the term, I have taken all the Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries off the shelves and tell the students to read something else. there is little I will not buy but sometimes I do tell students they can wait till a bit older. My biggest problem is kids taking books out that I know they do not have the skills to comprehend. We use the five finger rule. Dork Diaries for a grade 2 is a surprise... The one thing I hate is parents asking for a book to be removed as I feel no one ahs the right to stop someone else reading it - stop your child but not anyone elses...

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    1. I agree Kimberley, I would never stop other people reading a book. I would love to hear your suggestions for advanced readers in Grade 2 who have made it through all the standard Blyton, Dahl, Wimpy, Dork Diaries, Fleurville, etc. She is currently making her way through Harry Potter, but once they are read, I am not sure what's left...

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