Monday, July 06, 2009

Internet Scandal! *yawn*

Two big things have been going around the blogosphere lately, getting everyone riled up.

1. What to do when a 10-year-old wants to read Twilight. There was a post from Shelftalker and Fuse #8 had one too.

This may be not what everyone wants to hear, but...

If you have a patron who comes up and wants to read Twilight, what do you do? You give it to them. (or, more likely, add her name to the holds queue.)

I am not this child's parent. It is not my job, nor my place, nor should it be to, essentially, censor their reading based on what I feel is or is not appropriate. Trust me, I know how much easier said than done this is, but I am not this child's parent.

And, even if I were I would still give it to them. Children aren't dumb. You try to distract them with other books, they're going to figure it out and know that you're hiding it from them, so it's even better than you thought it was before. NOW YOU MUST READ IT! YOU MUST! Distraction backfires.

Also, I must remind myself that my mother let me read whatever I wanted and I know now how much she held her tongue at my reading choices, but thank the heavens she did. I was exposed to some dicey stuff at a young age through books, but! when I then saw such situations in real life? I knew what was going on and I was prepared, because I had dealt with this already in my reading.

I understand the fears that were discussed on Shelftalker, but I don't share them.

1. They are coming to a good book too early and they won't get out of the book what they would if they read it at the right age.

Maybe, but that's the joy of rereading. How do we ever know if now is the right time for a book? There are books I've come back to as an adult that meant so much more to me at this point in my life than they did when I read them the first time around, even if I read them the first time as an adult, just a slightly younger one. Do I wish I hadn't read those books until now? Sometimes, but, would I still be the same person had the book not shaped me somehow in my past? It's impossible to tell when the right time to read a book is for any given person. Just read what feels right at the moment and hope for the best.

An interesting note from my own life: when I was 7-10, my favorite movie was The Last Emperor. Definitely not a movie for my age group, but I don't know how many times I watched it those years. Everytime we went to the video store, I made my parents rent it.

Was it age-appropriate? Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Did I understand what was going on? I thought I did, but not really.
Did I get a lot more out of it when I watched it as an adult? You bet!
Do I wish I had waited to see it? NEVER. I am 100% certain that my desire to study Chinese in college, to study abroad in China, and to now read so much fiction and nonfiction about China (in short, all of my Sinophile tendancies) are because of how much I loved this movie as a kid. I didn't understand the history and change that was happening, but I knew it was there and it was fascinating. So, it was a subject I turned to again and again as I grew older, when I understood it more, and discovered it was even more fascinating than my 7-year-old mind could comprehend.

2. Now that these girls are reading about characters so much older, they won't have patience or the desire to read about children their own age.

This is a stickier one. I mean, we all know that kids like to read up. Elementary school students like reading about middle and high school students, middle school students like reading about high school kids, etc. It's how we help figure out the future. But, if kids read Twilight too soon, will they not have the patience, or do they want to read Twilight because they've already lost that patience. Also, in my observations of reading habits of kids at work, this just doesn't hold out.

I see 10-year-olds check out The Clique (and I cringe when they do, I really do. I told you this was easier said than done!) and Diary of Wimpy Kid and they love both. Especially at this 9-13 year range, readers love the super-old stuff and the stuff their own age. It's an odd time of still a kid, but almost a teenager and trying to find that balance in activities and dress and yes, reading material, too. This is a topic we love to see addressed in well-written coming-of-age novels, but we hate to see if acted out in real life, and I don't know why. (But I have a feeling it's because we, with our hindsight, know how fleeting childhood is, and want kids to hang on to such precious time, but we forget about how, when we were kids, all we wanted to do was be grown up.)

When I was in 5th grade, my two favorite books were Matilda and Remember Me (which is by Christopher Pike and features drinking, murder, and possibly some sex, but definetely lots of older teen situations!) In 6th grade, my favorite authors were Christopher Pike and Katherine Patterson. One was definetely writing for my age group, and one most certainly was not. This is also the time period where I read most of Judy Blume's catalog, both the stuff aimed at my age group (Blubber, Are You There God..., Just As Long As We're Together) and the stuff that certainly wasn't (Wifey, Forever). Reading older books didn't make me lose patience with books about kids my own age, and this is something I see reflected again and again in the reading choices made by the kids I work at.

I understand these fears, but I don't agree with them. I also fully understand the cringe factor in giving a 9 or 10-year-old girl Twilight. I really, really, really do. But, I take a deep breath, hold my tongue, and give them the book.

(But, if a parent were to ask me what I thought about it for their 9-year-old, you better believe I'd tell them exactly what I thought!)

Second, Newsweek had a panel of authors to tell people which books they should be reading in their field of expertise. And the blogosphere and listserves are freaking out because the Children's Lit author was Jenna Bush.


She's a teacher (who used to takes her class to the local library on field trips, even when her dad was president) and has written two books. And, she chose pretty decent titles.

Yes, there are other authors we might have wanted to hear from. But, what authors (besides JK Rowling and Stephenie Meyer and Jenna Bush) have household name recognition in houses that don't have kids? I can't think that my policy wonk friends would all have heard of.

But, more to the point, a semi-fluffy magazine did a fairly fluffy piece? And we're upset because it was... fluffy? yawn.


Anonymous said...

Well said. I am sad that I didn't read more kids/ya stuff when I was that age but I don't feel scarred and I like going back now and reading what I misseig

Anne said...

I remember hiding VC Andrews books under my bed when I was 11 so my Mom wouldn't find out. Not sure she would have really cared though. I think kids are going to read what kids are going to read.