Monday, August 29, 2011

Deemed Appropriate

A preteen boy asked me today for the first of the Twilight books by Stephanie Meyer. He's already seen the first two movies, and his mom won't let him see the third.  His mom was pretty concerned about him reading this series, and questioned me about it's "appropriateness". Appropriate means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  I've seen moms that are ultra-protective over what their kids read, and some who let their kids pick without thinking much about it.

When a patron asks us as librarians "Is this book appropriate for my kid?", how are we supposed to answer? 

Here's the thing... parents are really the only ones who can say what is or isn't appropriate for their sons and daughters to read. Librarians can't do that for you. If you ask us our opinion, then we can give that-- but just know that it doesn't mean that you'll think it's appropriate for him/her.  

After this incident, a woman came into the library complaining about the overly-violent and sexual nature of some of the graphic novels from the teen section. She only noticed this once she had taken them home and looked through them that they were inappropriate for her son to read. She asked "Why would you let someone his age check them out? I thought it would be safe to let him take out stuff from the library." She proceeded to fill out forms asking the library to reconsider these items for our collection (read: she wants them withdrawn or moved to the adult section).

Some things to note for library users: librarians aren't there to monitor what you or your kids read. Any of you. The only materials we'll tell you you can't have are the ones that don't circulate, like reference books. But this also means that if your 5th grader decides to check out a book on how to make beer at home, we're not going to stop him. Minors need a parent's signature on their library card application, and after that, all the content checked out on their card becomes the responsibility of the parent and the minor. 

So how do you know whether or not materials are suitable for your kid (based on your own judgments)?  

First of all, monitor what your kids are selecting before letting them check out if you are concerned.

Second, there are plenty of websites out there that rate books and other materials to determine appropriateness. One example is Common Sense Media, a website that lets people (parents, kids, etc.) rate all sorts of materials -- books, video games, movies, etc. The site lists the age people have stated the material is most suited for, and rates it on key things like: 
  • educational value
  • positive message
  • positive role models
  • violence
  • sex
  • language
  • consumerism
  • and drinking, drugs, and smoking
It lets you search by title, author, etc. and you can also browse books or other content based on the age level you are looking for. It's a great way for parents to monitor what their kids are reading, and offer suggestions for appropriate materials to them. 

That said, I am a firm believer in the freedom to read -- and the freedom to choose what you want to read. If you don't like something in the library, then don't read it. But don't try to take away someone else's choice to read it.

No comments:

Post a Comment