Saturday, 2 October 2010
Freedom to read 'em: are parents right to restrict their own teenager's reading?
And yes, it is an outrage.
As far as I'm concerned, banning your own teenager from reading a YA book is heinous. It might not be as heinous as trying to tell your entire town that no other teenager can read it either, but it still reeks of wrongess.
The fact is this: ignorant parents probably couldn't care less about anyone else's opinion on this. As far as they're concerned, their sense of entitlement tells them they're right and that's that. But surely parents whose compulsion to limit their teenagers' reading comes from a genuine desire to protect would do far better to let them read what they want, and open up a dialogue with them about it.
What I would say to them is this: Believe in your parenting skills. Statistics tell us that it's those who can't read at an appropriate level for their age who are most likely to wind up in jail or living on the poverty line*, not those who feel compelled to read books their parents might consider too old for them. You have a son or daughter who likes to read, and that's an accomplishment in itself. Now trust them. If they read a book you're concerned about, read it too, and discuss it with them. Just be prepared for the fact that they might end up teaching you something.
I'm not a parent. But I've been a teenager who wanted to read books her slightly over-protective mother thought were too old for her. She didn't ban them, but she did express disapproval. Did this stop me? No. I read them in secret. Did this stop me discussing the content and issues with her? Yes, it did. And that's not what anybody wants, is it?