Going from BSC to HP. Are you ready for this? (Is it just me or do all the kids on BSC book covers look so much older?)
I recently read an article on The New York Times "Room for Debate" section on what books are ok for young readers to read. I couldn't help but add my own thoughts . . . (click here for article)
Were you the kind of reader growing up that only read books that interested you? Or were you the kind of reader that read pretty much everything? I was that kind of reader, and because of that, I read everything I could get my greedy little hands on, including books that I wasn't ready for.
I remember reading a lot of adult books when I was young; I was a good reader. But that doesn't mean I was ready for what?! a rape scene that I read in an adult book I found laying around the house?! At first I was unsure of where the action of the book was leading, but once I realized what in the world was going on I felt disgusted, uncomfortable, and unsure for a long time after. It stuck with me--in a bad, traumatizing way. That didn't make me stop reading (let's be real, it would take a lot more than that!), but I stuck with books that were safe for a while (thus my entire yellow hardcover Nancy Drew collection), fearing to take those reading risks--that often pay off--because I dreaded an encounter with something like that again.
Because of that experience, I have a difficult time agreeing that kids are good "self-censors" and that they will just skim over parts that they don't really understand. Not true! Proficient reading skills or just curiosity can lead to traumatic experiences with material that kids aren't ready for. But at the same time, it's hard to say definitively at which age kids get to read which books. It's hard because every kid is different. Different in their maturity levels, world knowledge, emotional readiness, and in their own interests.
So I think this: Parents- you should read what they're reading. Or, if you have a hard time condescending yourself to read such books that your maturity level surpasses, read "side by side" with your kids. Ask them what they're reading, talk about characters/issues in the book, and be interested in what they read. Yes, they'll probably gravitate towards things they're interested in, but even then reading side by side with them can't hurt.
With that being said, I don't think you should underestimate exposure to new ideas and cultures that reading brings. Reading opens eyes and minds and won't cost you travel expenses or force you to live through sketchy experiences to gain that worldly knowledge. Yes, young readers may not understand enough to get all of it though--literature is a good place to be able to examine morality and ethics, but that chance might be missed if a book is read too soon. But don't rush to rip a book out of a reader's hands (horror!), rather talk about it with them and make those eye-opening, breathtaking, world-view-expanding experiences available through books.
What do you think?