This book blog is rated A

The A is for "Awesome."

Tony Buschbaum writes about how he wants books for children to have ratings. He recently picked up a book with a reading level of 14 and up, which he felt was, in content, vastly inappropriate for his 14 year old.

On the one hand, I don't particularly see the harm in putting an "L" for "Language" or an "S" for "Lots of Boning" on the cover. On the other hand, I agree with the criticisms in the comments that ratings for movies do in some way act as censorship--cutting material and content for a more favorable rating is common, because the lower the rating, the larger the audience, the huger the profit. That said, that is a fiscal choice to be made, not necessarily an artistic one.

Having no tiny Ombreviations running around, I don't have much of an opinion on this. Thoughts?


  1. A few years ago, I skimmed through one of my then 11-year-old's "youth" books from the library and said *&%$#! as I reviewed the "L" and "S" contained therein. That was the moment at which I realized The Damage Was Done. Surprisingly, she did not go on to a life of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll (I think - teenagers have been known to lead a double life.)

    I think Buschbaum's got a point but aren't we just reaping what we've sown? Our generation (I refer to those who are currently parenting children) is the one that's been screaming "no censorship" since the 60s - what do you expect to happen? Will putting a rating on books really, honestly make a difference?

    The kid in question, funnily enough, practices self-censorship - prefers to download the "explicit" version of songs she likes (on the basis of artistic integrity) but makes sure she doesn't play them out loud when younger kids are present. It's going to be very interesting to see what kind of adults our exposed-to-everything progeny make. I'm confidently expecting a Backlash in about 2020, complete with book-burnings.

  2. If I was a parent, I think I would appreciate the attempt to rate books, perhaps the sensitivity to exposing children to questionable material.

    That being said, there are ratings for other media--video games, TV shows, movies--and it seems that it's all relative. Exposure to language, sex, violence, etc. is really still left to the discretion of the parent.

    That being said, maybe ratings could serve as a "guide," so to speak; but the truly interested or concerned parents probably are already educated on what their children are reading anyway.

  3. I think age ratings would be very helpful. I read YA because I write YA, and nothing is more frustrating than picking up a book you think is for circa 15/16 year-olds only to find it's meant for a 10-12 year-old. Big difference.

    Age specification would help readers find the right book. Now how to decide what age a book is for...

  4. I'm not sure that we can say that the drive for profit is censorship, even if it disallows certain language.

    But I think there's a step missing in Buschbaum's logic, somewhere in the neighborhood of 'inappropriate.' If he doesn't want his kid reading books to which he objects, he should read everything before letting them crack the cover. That's what the parents who object to Harry Potter on account of all the Satanism do. You wanna be a control freak parent, knock yourself out; but stay away from the books that _my_ kid wants to read.

    (And when I was 14, my favorite reading material was Penthouse Variations, and I don't think it did me any lasting harm other than a tendency to start letters with, 'I never thought the letters you printed were true until one day ...')

  5. Watch the movie now on DVD called "This Film Is Not Yet Rated". From pressure from major studios to the prejudices of the humans on the ratings board no film is judged with the same standards as other films.

    Raising a child in today's world is a hard job but do you really want to leave the judgment of what you let your kid read up to a hand full of strangers? The only solution, admittedly a limited one, is to read or watch the story before you let your kids do. And I realize unless you have your kid locked down in your empty basement there really is no way for you to stop your kid from picking up those stories on the street.

  6. bingol: I'm in your corner on this one. If you rely on someone else's arbitrary rating system to tell you what is appropriate for your own kids then you are abdicating your responsibility.

    I am the control freak parent. My standards don't match the mainstream and I know this. I doubt I would expressly forbid my kids read a book I don't approve of after I think their critical thinking skills are developed enough to separate entertainment value from a reliable character building set of MCs- I'm guessing this will be around fifth or sixth grade.

    The point is, I will know what they are reading and I will talk to them about it. What I might object to, if they had a problem with it, why we do or don't agree about it.

    The Harry Potter= satanism thing made me laugh. I actually read the first book because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Loved it. Cannot wait until my kids are old enough to start on HP. It's a calculated risk, I suppose. A big gamble, assuming my 10 year old might realize that Hogwarts is fictitious and nobody really gets to fly around on broomsticks.

  7. As a parent (albeit a new one, my son is only 2 and a half months old), I have to say I just don't care about a rating system. Either way, I'm in direct control of what my son will be reading. Just like I'll be in control of what movies he watches, regardless of their ratings.

    That said, I think a more indepth system for age genre may be helpful. YA is a very broad category. I mean, should Twilight be put in with Cirque Du Freak? Certainly not, but they're right next to each other at Border's.

  8. One of the things I've always appreciated about the SFBC was they had tags on the book descriptions noting which ones have explicit language and sex. I don't think I'd like a ratings system, but just a blip on the back similar to their 'explicit sex' note doesn't seem out of line to me.

  9. I found the best way to deal with the problem was not to read the books before my son read them, but to read them with him. For years, we took turns reading to each other from the same book. (Sometimes we still do.) Frequently there was something objectionable. At that point, depending on just how objectionable it was, we would 1) stop and talk about it, 2) set it aside for him to read when he was older, or 3) discard it as not worth reading.

  10. I've got two young kids and I could care less about this. I'm sure they'll cope, just as I coped when I was there age and found things I probably wasn't ready for.