wall street journal

Should Children’s Books Have A Rating System?

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Last weekend’s Wall Street Journal article, Darkness Too Visible, sparked a discussion with a friend of mine. She’s a writer, too. Our discussion ended with us contemplating whether or not children’s books — or any book, really — would benefit from a rating system, such as the one used for movies, television, or video games.

My initial reaction to this idea was no, of course books don’t need a rating system.

Then, while at a store looking at Wii games for my children, I found myself choosing between games…based on the rating system…and it got me thinking.

As a mother and a writer of children’s stories, I find it difficult to take an unbiased stance on this topic. I love books. I read a lot of books. I read wide and deep and am not easily offended by “dark” subjects in books. I read books with my kids. I make informed choices of which books they would enjoy and which books would scare the snot out of them. (Here’s a post I wrote at The Parking Lot Confessional on this topic: What I learned from reading Harry Potter with my daughter.)

But this isn’t possible for all parents. Times are hard and some parents are maxed out. Others don’t recognize the importance of reading to and with their kids. Still others don’t realize there’s a wealth of resources online and at libraries to help them make informed decisions about the books their kids read.

Not being informed, I think, leads to situations like the one mentioned in the WSJ article: a mom walking into a store completely clueless which books would be a good fit for her daughter.

Kind of like me, with the Wii games.

I’m not convinced ratings are the way to go. Or that any changes need to be made, other than readers making informed choices. But the idea has me wondering what others out there think.

So I ask you:

  • Would a rating system be helpful for books?
  • What effect would a rating system have on books and publishing?
  • Are books different from other forms of media that do have a rating system?

NOTE: I am not advocating banning books. I am absolutely 100% against banning books. Let me state that again: I AM ABSOLUTELY 100% AGAINST BANNING BOOKS. You don’t want to read a book, don’t read it. Banning is never the answer.