What I’m going to say here has already been (more) eloquently said by others in this space. I particularly hope you’ll read (or reread) what Patty Blount had to say on the subject. That said, here I offer my own additional thoughts on the same basic theme of Letting Kids Read.
The books we read as children and teens have the potential to shape the rest of our lives. Think back to when you were young. I’m willing to bet there was some book, author or series that contributed to your world view, either for a few years or permanently. Reading about people, situations and philosophies outside one’s immediate experience can be incredibly mind-expanding. It can also allow us to learn from others’ mistakes so that we’re less likely to make those same mistakes ourselves. Reading widely is the next best thing to traveling the world, when it comes to broadening our perspectives.
Like most authors, I’m firmly opposed to book censorship. Not only when it comes to limiting what’s permitted in schools and libraries, but in our homes, as well. I happen to think it’s a terrible idea for parents to censor what they allow their children to read, particularly once they reach their teen years. It’s a time of life when most kids are facing all kinds of scary and confusing changes and choices. It’s when they start to realize that a lot of what happens in and around them is not only out of their control, it’s out of their parents’ control, too. Terrifying thought! Books offer a safe space for them to explore topics and scenarios that frighten, worry or confuse them. Reading about how fictional characters handle big challenges can better equip teens to face the real-life hurdles they’ll inevitably encounter as they transition to adulthood. Depriving them of those tools does them a serious disservice.
So…pay attention to what books your kids are seeking out. Not so you can pick and choose the ones you think are “appropriate,” but so that you can perhaps get a glimpse of where they’re coming from, what hopes and fears are driving them. Teens can be pretty inscrutable at times. If you can get them talking about the books they’re reading, that may well open a door to discussions that will be enlightening for both of you. I highly recommend it!
Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-four novels (so far), including sweet and spicy historical romance, time travel romance and, with her Starstruck series, young adult science fiction romance.