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.