Reading Criteria for my Angelicscalliwags

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I am writing this because tomorrow I will be posting about our Crusades books.  As every family has differing levels of what they deem acceptable reading for their children I felt this post might be helpful for those wondering whether the books I have my children read would be suitable for their children.

I know this can be an issue, because up until I have the ‘big talk’ with my children I am exceptionally careful about the books the children read.  We do not use the library for that reason, preferring to buy second-hand books off Amazon.  Any books which are for slightly older children I read aloud to them omitting any parts I wanted to protect them from.  Mara, Daughter of the Nile fell into this category when I read it to the at age 7.

That said, as the children grew older, I found myself talking earnestly with Gary about extending the freedoms we allowed with regards to their reading.  When they were all 10 we had the ‘talk’, which for us consists of much more than simply how a baby is made.  This has meant that the children have a greater knowledge and understanding than before about many things and could probably handle slightly more mature books.  This has led to our criteria changing somewhat and we no longer are as protective in our stance over reading materials for the older ones (but remain so for our two littles).  The following list applies both to their reading materials and to any DVDs they are allowed to watch (we don’t watch TV so I don’t need to monitor that.)  These will seem a little restrictive to some and too unrestrictive for others.  For our family they work well, the children understand them and come to me if they are concerned about anything they find in their reading.  I do not pre-read my children’s books anymore and rely on their good sense to alert me to any issues.

What we allow or don’t allow

  • Absolutely no spirits, ghosts and magic if portrayed as fact.  I am happy for them to be in fantasy fiction such as the Lord of the Rings and the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and so forth because the children are now old enough to differentiate, however one of the crusade books I recently bought had ghosts of dead people past as the main characters.  The book was written in a true to life fictional genre.  We got rid of that book before even starting it.  That said, if it is a retelling of actual fact, such as Marco Polo’s journeys and the cultures of differing beliefs he met, that is fine and will often lead to some great chats.
  • We are okay with there being occasional bad language on the understanding that none of it is transferred to the children’s own vocabulary.  However if a word is said repeatedly throughout a book, I have been known to disallow it as personal reading and read it aloud instead omitting the bad word (Voyage of the Snake Lady comes to mind).
  • Whilst we are okay with occasional scenes of a romantic nature (so long as they are not explicit) we would not want the children reading books which are primarily based on a relationship between a girl and a boy.  No romance books at this age!
  • We are fine with violence in context.  For example in war.  However, we don’t allow violent books or films which have pointless violence (although it could be argued war is pointless violence….)
  • We are Christian, and encourage the children to read Christian fiction away from their required school reading, however we are very happy for the children to read books containing other religions and cultures.
  • Terms such as concubines and prostitution when they are aware of the meaning are allowed, so long as nothing is described explicitly.

Why these ‘rules’?

There is a conflict sometimes between what the bible says and that which is acceptable to us in modern-day life.  As parents we have responsibility for what is placed in front of our children’s eyes and once they are exposed they can not be unexposed.  Yet, sometimes exposure leads to a wider understanding of life and the world around them.  It leads to questioning and the availability of discussions within the home, a safe environment for forming opinions about the things that go on.  To avoid this, I believe, is removing an important part of our children’s education.

Basically we allow what the children could theoretically be exposed to in their every day life.  Bad language might be overheard, other cultures and religions are seen daily living so close to London and relationships are seen all around us (and arguably are what makes the world go round!).  War scenes are acceptable because at certain times in life this has been mankind’s reality, and indeed still is today in some parts of the world.

Romantic scenes that are explicit in nature are not acceptable because at no point in real life are we ever present in a couple’s bedroom to witness their intimacies.  We also do not want the children reading romance books because we don’t want them to find our no dating rule harder than they inevitably will.  If they are exposed continually to books containing romance as its main story they will surely want that for themselves.  For our family, romantic relationships and all the baggage that goes with it, are not to be a part of their childhood and growing up years.

Please understand, I am not writing this because I believe this is what all families should believe.  I am writing it so that when I recommend books you all know the stance from which I am coming.  I would hate to recommend a book that is acceptable for my family which would ultimately derogate the innocence of your child because of differing ideals.

22 comments

  1. I agree with Phyllis, these are good rules. It’s good to know where your own family stand to make decision making simpler.

  2. You’ve obviously thought your rules out sensibly, and it’s got me thinking about what I’d want my children to read and not read. I don’t recall there being any particular rules about my reading material when I was a child, although I never read silly tween romance novels or vampire stories at home (sometimes I borrowed them from friends but thought they were daft) so perhaps there was some subtle censorship going on. I’m so grateful that I’m getting the chance to think these things through BEFORE I have to make these decisions instead of doing it on the fly… what on earth would we do without the internet? 😉

  3. Those are great rules, we probably will adopt similar ones. We’ve had a very abbreviated version of the talk with the boys (because their Aunt was pregnant and they wanted to know HOW the baby got there), but have not yet with Princess.

    I was thinking through why it was I was okay with my kids listening to Harry Potter as a read aloud, but not Percy Jackson, and came to the conclusion it’s because Percy Jackson has more romantic problems, it’s demi-gods, so they came about because of indiscretions, and I don’t want to explain that to my kids yet. They’re not ready for it, so it’s off limits for now. I like the idea of differentiating between books that present magic and witches as fantasy vs. reality, that’s a good distinction.

  4. I found your blog at the beginning of your Little House adventure. I would love to come to England to meet you because I think we would become fast friends:) These rules are excellent!

  5. Very wise and excellent rules… to read by, as well as to live by. I could write a boat-load about the topic of literature and how seeds can and are planted in a moment in vulnerable minds. But I shall stay off my soapbox… lucky people. The opinionated South African is leaving the building! 😀 I love that pic of your twin engrossed in a good book… A bibliophile by heart I love seeing children read!

    1. Thanks Liezel (you know, every time I spell your name I sit there staring at it, wondering if it’s right. I’m sure I spell it differently each time. It’s a lovely name but…how do you spell it?!). Feel free to mount your soap box anytime!

  6. Thank you! It IS spelt Liezel…you are spot-on. It is German as I am sure you know… A diminutive of the German ‘Elizabeth’ and hence usually spelt as ‘Liesl’, but in South Africa also spelt as ‘Liezel’. I have spent my life spelling my name to all and sundry… :-D. I vowed to never give my children names that would be so easily mis-spelt and I honestly thought ‘Noah’ would be perfect. But lo and behold I have had people ask me how to spell ‘Noah’…. I usually give them what Craig sweetly refers to as ‘The Look’ and then say: Remember the man in the Bible who built a BIG boat? …. Anyway… All that and then my son decides he is no longer Noah, but Daniel… (His 2nd name)…. Takes after his Mom I tell you. So… There you go Claire! My Name… In a nutshell… 😀

  7. “Be vigilant, to place guard on what you allow your eyes to see, because what you visualize will infiltrate your conscience, thus, effecting what your personality will be….For what a man contemplates and thinks, will always determine what actions he’ll take….As a man thinketh, so shall be his identity.” ~ T. Holmes
    This quote is much longer, but basically this sums it up. I agree with you 100% and I am interested to see what your recommended books are. With my boys interested more in science fiction and humor we haven’t had any issues yet. But it definitely is something to watch out for.

  8. Sounds very similar to the rules in our home and homeschool.
    My oldest is now reading a little more freely, without my per-reading her books, yet, I have been pleased with most of her book choices. But before this we too had a talk about what is appropriate for her age to be reading and what type of book is allowed in our home.
    Since the boys are still quite young, I do edit some of what we read and tend to pick books I know to be ok for them. Now, since most of the books my boys pick are about animals, planes, and bugs, we don’t usually have too much of an issue with the library books. Nothing to romantic or inappropriate in a book all about spiders and their prey. 🙂
    Its nice to see we are not the only picky family out there when it comes to what our kids read.

    1. I’m so less picky than I used to be, as the children have got older. It was so much simpler when they were younger. As they’ve grown much more thought is required as to do and don’ts because the children need to know our reasons. Once they understand the whys of a rule it is rarely broken but if there is no logical reason and so no understanding…that is when the problems start!

  9. I absolutely love the way you have set this out, Claire, especially in preface to your Crusades recommendations. It is a pleasure to read about your family’s parenting philosophy and your children are clearly thriving within it.

    I totally empathise with your reticence about posting. Our own philosophy is quite different, but I also worry about “declaring” it. When we each authentically and respectfully share our own values, I believe we all contribute to the Great {homeschooling/parenting} Conversation.
    As someone who feels in the minority – at least in the homeschool blogging circles in which I like to hang out – my biggest challenge is to not hold back too much from talking truthfully about how WE do things. (Because I know there will be someone out there who sighs with relief that they’re not the only ones!) Anyway – great post, thanks for making me think as usual 🙂

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