The older your child gets and the more experience they gain as a reader, the question of whether a book is appropriate changes. Instead of wondering if our child has the ability to read a book (see last week’s post for tips on this), we wonder if what they are reading is appropriate from a content perspective. And if they are an extra sensitive reader, this can be especially challenging. The older they get, the more books become available that contain more mature content. How can we help them navigate this challenge?
Below are a few tips that might help.
1. Talk to your child about what they are reading.
Ask questions. If they bring books home that look questionable to you, talk to them about your concerns. Let them know it is okay to put a book down if it has something in it that makes them uncomfortable. They may bring those issues up to you, but often times they need you to initiate the conversation. Use the books they read or want to read as opportunities to dialogue together about what is appropriate for them and what isn't. We can’t protect our children from everything, but we can be available to walk alongside, process with them, and help them learn how to discern for themselves.
2. Check out reviews on Amazon or GoodReads.
To find out what kind of content is in the books they are reading, it can be helpful to read the reviews and summaries on sites like Amazon or Goodreads. Many times the lower star reviews will discuss language or more mature or violent content that is found in the book. Knowing what is in a book will help equip you to better discuss anything you find concerning with your child and make the decision whether it is a good book choice.
Common Sense Media is also a great resource. If you can find the book your child is reading or wants to read on their site, you will find an abundance of information on that title. They will tell you if there is any violence, scary material, sex or language included. They also allow parents and kids to weigh in with their opinions on the resources they review. In addition to books, you can find reviews on movies, TV, video games, etc. This site is a great resource for parents!
Along those lines, Focus on the Family’s Plugged In also offers reviews on books (and movies, music, etc.) and will alert you to any objectionable content as well as provide discussion questions for many of the books they review.
I think it is important to let our kids choose the books they read. Using the resources above we can get an idea for what is in a book if we don’t have time to read it ourselves. Our kids will choose books at times that are inappropriate or that they just aren’t ready for. As parents we need to be alert, available and talking with them in order to help our kids navigate what to do when they do.
And, if your child feels strongly about reading a book you aren’t sure about; consider reading and discussing it together. Use the opportunity as a teaching opportunity, and a way to connect with your kid over books and reading.