When we talk to people about Bookalachi, there is a lot of enthusiasm and an almost a universal sense of agreement that it’s a good idea and that parents want this info. (Okay, from a research perspective, I realize we’re talking to a lot of our friends, so it’s not an unbiased sample pool. :)
Do we really need content reviews of kids books?
Movies have ratings, tv shows and music do, and even video games. Books have been around for much longer–so why haven’t book ratings ever come into existence?
I think the resistance to rating content in books is because people hear ‘rating’ and think ‘censorship’. And for lots of readers, the idea of censorship brings images of banned book lists and bonfires. But ratings and censorship are not the same.
Censorship stops something (like a book being sold, or a movie being produced), but ratings give the consumer information about it. Making the choice as a parent that you do or do not want your child to watch a PG-13 movie or read a book that has a lot of violence in it is called ‘parenting’. If given relevant information on the content in media, parents are in the best position to censor it (or not) for their child. Some people think parents should just read what their kids are reading. And that would be awesome, but with 3 kids (who have a lot more free time than I do), it’s an impossible task. Trust me.
Oftentimes, publishers will put an age-range on the book jacket, and that’s a helpful place to start. But the difference between what an 8 year-old and a 12 year-old are ready for is vast. And an 8 year-old with certain life experiences might be more ready than a 12 year-old. Usually the age range on book jackets are an indication of the target audience and takes into account vocabulary and familiarity with certain academic material. It can’t possibly tell a parent if a book is appropriate for their child.
At Bookalachi, we think that you, the parents, are in the best position to filter the media that comes into your child’s life—because you know your child better than anyone. You know where your child is struggling, what bothers them, and what might need some explanation.
What do you think? Are books different then other sources of media your kids are exposed to?
Check out this post on the subject of content reviews on kids books from someone in the publishing industry. And this post from across the pond in response to an author’s complaint that children’s books are too realistic.