An article posted yesterday on HuffingtonPost.com asked the question, “Should Young Adult (YA) books be given movie-style ratings?”
As I read the article, I thought of other posts I’ve seen asking whether or not Christian fiction eBooks should be labeled. This question came up because people buy eBooks not realizing what they are and then give bad reviews based on that rather than the book’s literary merit.
The idea of labeling and rating are similar since the idea is to make sure you’re getting what you want to get, or rather to make sure you don’t get what you don’t want.
This made me wonder, if you’re going to rate one type of book why wouldn’t you rate them all? I know even adults don’t necessarily want to pick up a book full of profanity. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a warning?
Who would be responsible for making the rating? It would be a conflict of interest for the publishers to do it. Who would read the books to make this determination? What would they base it on? Like the article mentions, we process the written word different than we process a visual movie. Not to mention there are almost too may ways you could categorize a book. Would a few standard ratings work?
And what would this do to a writer’s creativity and free speech? How many times do you see movies going back to the editing room to get a better rating? Would you want that of a book?
My child is still young, but I can envision her as a teen and me not liking everything she wants to read. At that point, I’ll need to make the decision to let her read the book or not. The answer isn’t as black and white as it seems, simply because even books we don’t like, say ones with a lot of profanity, aren’t necessarily rendered meritless because of those words. In some cases it’s stronger because of them. I read adult books as a teen and feel I benefited from them. However, I agree this is not the case for everyone and every book.
As a parent, and a reader, I see a benefit to having a glimpse into the book’s content instead of blindly picking something off the shelf. I fully believe in monitoring what your kids watch, read, play, etc. But I also believe in giving as much freedom within a certain limit–a limit which could change drastically from kid to kid depending on their maturity–as possible.
The Huffington Post article suggested people visit CommonSenseMedia.org to read ratings and suggested age appropriateness instead of mandatory ratings.
This is the first time I’ve been to the site and am amazed at what is covered here. They give reviews and advice on movies, games, books, TV, etc. It also gives advice on Facebook and other media, and how media can impact your kids. It has a wealth of information. And it’s not just for teens. It’s also for younger kids. And I daresay some adults could benefit as well. (Yes, I’m referring to anyone who publishes TMI in their Facebook status.)
The book reviews are broken out into a section called ‘What parents need to know’, then it gives ratings in categories like educational value, positive message, sex, violence, language, drugs. Then it gives you the plot summary and a review on whether or not the book is any good. It also gives ideas for family talks about the book. And then lastly there’s a place for reader reviews and comments.
Overall it looked like a great place to check up on things your children would be interested in. It’s a tool for finding appropriate books without judging or labeling, at least not in the sense a standard rating would. The site is helpful to parents and readers without censoring or hindering any creative process.
Have you used Common Sense Media? What are your thoughts?