Wednesday, January 8, 2014

IWSG: Censoring Books

Two of my children are teenagers.
Learn more about the IWSG

I write and read books for teenagers.

For the most part this has been a wonderful thing in my house. Me and my children are members of the same nerdy fandoms and swoon over the same love interests. We talk candidly about fads and teen behavior, even swap book ideas and character inspiration pics. And of course their feedback on my own books is invaluable.

I do not support the banning or censorship of books for children, BUT I believe parents (and only parents) have the right to decide what is appropriate for their own children. I consider myself a conservative person, and while the literature I've allowed my kids to read is vast, I admit there are several titles I've told them they are not to read until they're older or married...or never. ;) Yet as the years pass, guess what? They're reaching 'older', and books they are asking to read that I once held tight, I've been hesitantly handing over.

For example, my oldest (14 1/2) has been begging to read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (I think mostly because of the upcoming movie). Because of the language and sexual content, I've refused...until a couple of weeks ago. It's one of my favorite books--I've read it several times. But still. I was biting my nails and peeking in on her, assuring her that she could stop at any time if she felt uncomfortable and...she loved it. And we talked about it. And we swooned and laughed and cried about our favorite moments. She was able to read a difficult story about love and disease and hope, and despite my reservations about her ability to 'handle' it, I think the best part was that we could share something together--as parent and child--and that is a beautiful thing.

Do you censor (or plan to censor) what your children read? Am I a terrible parent for letting my daughter read TFIOS? Or for not letting her read it in the first place? Just curious about your thoughts on the subject...

Another benefit to being a parent of teenagers...the music hook-up. Especially my oldest daughter who gives me all the best Indie-Folk writing music I could ever want. Thanks, Lulu. <3

38 comments:

Suzanne Furness said...

I think you have to go with what feels right at the time. I tend to think that if they are determined enough to do something kids will usually find a way with or without our blessing so probably best to know what they are doing so you can support them should the need arise. Sounds like your daughter was mature enough to handle the content. Another child of the same age may not so I think parent guidance is important.

Happy New Year :)

Empty Nest Insider said...

It's nice that your daughter enjoys reading, and that you were able to have discussions about the book. Hopefully, this will continue with both of your children, and I can't think of a better book club.

Julie

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You are a rare parent, because you take the time to get involved with what your kids read. Don't ever stop, Ilima. No matter what they read, if they can share it with you, then it will be all right.

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

My kid is grownup now but yeah, I did censor her reading material. She still got into my romance books eventually though.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I'm not a parent, but what I like about what you're doing is how you're reading, or have already read, the books you're hesitant about. You're not just saying "no" based on reviews, etc - you're informed and that's crucial.

So love how you and your daughter talked and cried about TFIOS. :)

Suzi said...

No way are you a bad parent for letting her read TFIOS. What you did is great. And being able to share that love of reading is wonderful.

I plan on keeping up with what my kids read. It's so much easier being a reader myself. I've got a few years to go until then though.

David P. King said...

I can't say I'll censor what my kids read, but I do want to know what they're reading and have a conversation about it, at least. You approached this in a great way. :)

Charity Bradford said...

I think you've got it just right. We have to look at each of our children individually. Their maturity, their ability to work things through, etc. There are things I let my 14 and 16 year old read that I've asked my 11 year old to wait another year or two. A lot happens in those short years and the reading of those books will be a different experience. A 14 year old can appreciate things that might scar an 11 year old for life! And yet, some 11 year olds might be just fine. Plus, getting to talk things over with them when they do read it is such an amazing experience!

Sorry to ramble!

Cassie Mae said...

I'm jealous you have someone in your family you can share your love for reading with. I don't think it's a problem at all because you warned her of the content, then gave her the opportunity to make the decision HERSELF, which is AMAZING parenting.

J. A. Bennett said...

Oh man, I don't know if I want my kids reading that book, even if I love it! So I know what you mean. Awesome for you talking about it though. I think that's the real key, being involved in it. Great song choice, again. Now I know how you do it :D

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

I think you have to do what feels right for each kid. My oldest (who's only nine yet) is quite sensitive. I'm excited for her to read Wonder, which is MG, but I'm worried it would upset her, even though overall it's heartwarming it has a lot of sadness, too. If she really begged me to read, I'd probably let her. But otherwise, I'll hold on to it. As moms we usually know what our kids can handle.
PS. I loved TFIOS!

S.K. Anthony said...

I was able to share my reading experiences with my mother growing up, and we still do. Of course now there is no censorship either, so we discuss a wide range of books. I love it.

My twins are only three years old, but I will probably pay attention to what they read. As parents, I think we're responsible for what they learn and these books can teach our kids many many things. I think you're doing great and I hope to follow in your footsteps ;)

Donna K. Weaver said...

Yes! Talk about the books your kids read. You can point out things that don't occur to them which are obvious to you. It gives you a chance to explain why--for whatever reason--you have issues with some of them. Give them something to think about. I think it's a fabulous way to teach our children to think for themselves.

Laura said...

I think it's great that you care so much what your children read. Also, The Fault in Our Stars is a great book! :)

Diane Burton said...

I've always thought if I told my kids they couldn't read something they'd be more determined to read it. It's good that you are reading the book first and considering the maturity of your child before making a decision on whether it's appropriate or not. Best wishes.

River Fairchild said...

With the exception of Flowers in the Attic, the choices available to my daughter as a teen (she's now 40) weren't the same as the choices you're faced with now. I don't envy your dilemma. :)

I had to laugh at your "bucket list" comment on Alex's blog. It really is quite an achievement to comment first! I've only made it into the top ten so far.

Chrys Fey said...

I don't have children yet, but I think I would do what you do with yours. I'd encourage them to read, but make sure that they don't read certain titles until an appropriate age. I remember I read my first Danielle Steel book "Once in a Lifetime" at 14. haha

Carrie-Anne said...

My parents were always really liberal about what I could read, particularly since I always read several grade levels up and had mostly graduated to adult novels by the time I was fourteen. The only time my parents censored something was when my mother caught me reading a non-fiction book about the Holocaust at age eight and returned it to the library. Though the Shoah is one of my areas of historical expertise now, I agree that children so young shouldn't read about it. I haven't even let my young campers in the somewhat hidden exhibit about the Oswego refugees at the State Museum, not wanting them to see images of that time period.

To me, not allowing a child above a certain age to read something is akin to attempting to shield them from the real world, where such language and events are very much real. A lot of people who grew up with parents who took away or forbade books with certain content report they were unprepared for the real world and adult life, due to being so ignorant about certain things.

Diana Wilder said...

Isn't it great to talk with someone and say 'You felt that way, too? Isn't it wonderful?!?'

One of life's great moments!

Diana at About Myself By Myself

Cortney Pearson said...

That would be a tough call for me too, but I think you handled it well. Like Cassie Mae, you let her make the decision for herself. But on the other hand, I agree there are some books that are flat out NOT worth reading. I took an ethical criticism course in college, and we had to specify where we drew the line on books, movies, etc, and what we allowed even though certain content went against our personal beliefs, and we had to specify why. And I think for me it definitely matters on what the rest of the subject matter being touched on represents. In the case of TFIOS, where there's so much awesome in it, so much heart and such a *good* message, it's worth the other stuff. If that makes any sense. Definitely something a parent has to determine and talk through with their child, which it sounds like you did! I'm not to this point either with my kids--they're still too little--but I hope I can use wise judgment like you did! :D

ReflectionsbyCindy said...

I try to be involved in my older kids' reading choices, but I get surprised at times. A few years back, my oldest was reading The Hunger Games, and I had no idea what it was about, but assumed it was okay since he started reading in school. If I had known at the time, I wouldn't have let him read it then, that's for sure.

http://lucindawhitney.com/2014/01/miscellaneous/insecure-writers-support-group/

Emily R. King said...

What a lovely experience! So glad you shared the book with your daughter, and even better that you were able to talk about it with her. You're such a good mom!

Jessie Humphries said...

I love that you shared that experience with your daughter. My oldest is 8 so we are barely getting to the Ivy & Bean books, but one day...

Holli Moncrieff said...

I don't have children myself, but I am so grateful my mother never censored what I read. I read books that gave me nightmares and books that gave me a sexual education...probably before my time. But I am happy she let me read what interested me at every age. I don't think it did me any harm, and it introduced me to a wide variety of writing styles and topics early on.

Not everyone would be comfortable being that permissive, but I guess my mother would rather have me reading than out causing trouble.

Kelley Lynn said...

Go for you for being so in tune with your daughter. She's lucky to have a mother who cares so much. :)

I won't be seeing the movie. i don't want to cry...haha

Johanna Garth said...

I love the relationships you describe with your children. You're not a terrible mother at all. In fact, you're the opposite because you care about her so deeply that you're giving everything that goes into nurturing her serious thought. I think that's wonderful. I also think I need to read that book!

Kathryn Purdie said...

I agree with pretty much everyone here. You were sensitive to the situation, thoughtful about your daughter and her desires, gave her an idea of what she'd be getting into, let her decide for herself, and talked about it. Fabulous parenting. My daughter is the same age and not quite at that maturity level yet. She still likes to read really easy, breezy YA. But it's amazing how quickly teenagers suddenly mature and want more, and I better be ready. Yikes! I'll just follow in your footsteps, so keep paving the way!

Kathryn Purdie said...

Also, I LOVE this song!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Awesome you two bonded over the book. I had to buy my own books so I wasn't exactly censored but I knew what wasn't accepted in my parent's house. I really want to read this book but I need to win a gift card. Damn the slow cash flow. At least I saved in time to see American Hustle in theatres.

Patricia Lynne said...

I think you did a great job as a parent in the situation. To me, this is how parents should approach books. They can decide for their child, not every child. It may be scary when you give your child a book you previously said no, but it can turn into a wonderful bonding and learning experience.

Nicole said...

Haven't had to cross this bridge yet. ;) But it sounds like you have a good approach.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Beautiful post, Ilima! No, I don't plan to censor or control what my daughter reads. My parents never did that to me and I turned out just fine. What they DID do was teach me correct morals, how to ask questions if I was uncomfortable, and how to judge for myself if something was appropriate. To this day, I can recall several novels I picked up and knew were just wrong for me to read, so I never finished them. I think kids have a lot more built-in censorship of their own than we give them credit for. :) And I love that TFIOS gave you a chance to talk to your daughter about some pretty great stuff. Such a beautiful book.

Tammy Theriault said...

ah dang it...you just reminded me that I need to read that book! especially now that you said there is sex in it. I'm teasing, I'm teasing. you're absolutely right that us parents need to be the censors and you did good, mom, very good!

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Ilima,
Rather than being a bad parent, I believe you're a forward thinker. It's good that you are able to put aside your reservations and let your youngster explore new boundaries.

You're now made me want to have a read too.

jaybird said...

I pre-read everything I give to my girls. I know them so well, I know what they will respond to and what might upset them (especially with my ten year old). So far, I have been pretty lucky. There was only one book I had to veto. But I will, most likely allow her to read it when she gets a little older, if she asks about it again.

I call what you are doing- a responsible parent. You take an interest and responsibility about what your kids are putting before their eyes, and that is a very important thing to do in this age.
Good job Momma.

readfaced said...

My daughter is just about to be a teen (eek!) and I feel for you. We want to shelter and keep them safe from what's out there (one reason why I homeschool), but also let them be part of what's going on in the world.

The truth is you know your kids better than anyone. If they are not ready for something, that is always your call. It is not censorship to guide them.

My worry is that I may let my hang-ups become hers.

Leanne ( http://readfaced.wordpress.com )

Leanne ( http://readfaced.wordpress.com )

Morgan said...

Your blog is SNOWING!!!!! How cute is this?!?!?

Love.

Anyway, I'm scared for this. I don't know how I'll handle it with my kids. My oldest is 9 so I'm not there yet. But it'll happen in a blink. I guess I'll just trust you to keep posting your experiences so I can learn from you... cool??? ;-)

Sarah Allen said...

I think you've gone about it the best way. Carefully and with conversation reading difficult material will help them confront with and consider these difficult issues from a safe place. And TFiOS is the book to do it! Such a good one :)

Sarah Allen
(From Sarah, with Joy)