Google+ Reading Teen: Why Do You Do That? Content Reviews

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why Do You Do That? Content Reviews


Content Reviews

Content Review:  A book review that also contains detailed information about profanity, sexual content, violence and other notables.

It never fails.  We mention something about having content reviews and someone says, "OH, you're one of THOSE people!"

And then I clinch my fists and remember that I'm trying to be a good person, and I say, "What kind of person is that?" (with a very polite smile on my face).

Then they say, "One of those people who want to keep books out of the hands of 'impressionable' children." *eyebrow raise*

And then I punch them.  Ok, not really.  Instead I say, "Why don't you find out exactly what it is we do and why before you decide." *smile*

And that's what this post is about.

So what do we do?  And why?

When I first started reading Young Adult (Teen) Books, my oldest daughter was 13 years old.  At the time, I wasn't a reader, and I had no idea about the content in teen books.  I was completely oblivious.  I had read Twilight, and loved it (don't judge) and spent the next few months scouring the teen library shelves for a book that would fill the void Twilight left behind.  The more I read, the more surprised I was by what I was reading.  I just had no clue.  Like most parents, I assumed (no assume jokes!) that if it was in the teen section, it would be appropriate for my teen.  Well, that was definitely wrong.  Now, I know, every person parents differently, and has the right to decide what her child reads, but for me, over 30 "F" words and descriptive sexual relationships were not what I wanted my 13-year-old reading.  Not even close.  But this book I picked up was sitting on the shelf right next to Anne of Green Gables (no, not literally, but you get my point).

How was I, as a mom, supposed to know if a book was something I wanted my child to be reading?  Even if I was okay with her reading all of that, I would still want to know she was reading it, so that I could talk to her about what she was absorbing.  There's no label on the books, there's no mention of what is in them, and there's really no way to find out.  So, I started reading books before giving them to my daughter.  Luckily, I had already found that I love Young Adult books, so this wasn't quite as taxing as it could have been.

Over time, more and more moms would find out that I loved reading YA, and they would ask me, "Is this book ok for my (insert age)-year old?"  I never felt comfortable making that decision for them, so I'd just tell them exactly what was in it, and let them make up their own minds.  One day I just decided that I'd start writing it down on a simple Google website.  I figured that if this many people were asking me in person, there must be more out there that are wondering the same thing.  That's how Parental Book Reviews was born.




Since then, we have had a huge response to our content reviews.  We've had teens who thank us because their parents wouldn't let them read a book until they found out that not all YA books have a lot of content in them.  We've had other bloggers who just like to monitor what they themselves read, and will check with us before requesting or starting a new book.  We've had parents and teens who ask that we read certain books for them, so they can know if it's a good fit for them.  We've had those who are scared easily, and want to know if a book is too frightening or violent for their taste.  The list goes on and on.

Do we believe in banning books?  NOT AT ALL!  Do we believe in one-size-fits-all parenting?  Nope!  We believe every individual needs to have the freedom to decide for themselves if a book is right for them or their child.  We're just providing the information.

Have more questions about this, or anything else we do, or just want to tell us what you think?  Leave us a comment!

Happy Reading!


*It's important to note, as well, that we love these books!  We review based on the story and writing, not on the content.  There have been many books that we have given 5 stars to, that have heavy content.  We don't see it as our job to tell you what you should and shouldn't read.  We give you the information to make an educated decision for yourself.

38 comments:

  1. I think, at the end of the day, it's about parents being able and willing to discuss literature with their children. A book can't damage an individual but being able to talk about it with a peer or parent will help strengthen a teen's relationship with reading. It's all about making sure that people - adults and children - are informed, rather than avoiding or fearing what the content may be.

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    1. I SOOO agree with that!! I think a lot of times people are afraid of letting parents know what's in books, because they're afraid of the reaction. But, I think, if people are informed, they're less likely to get upset, because they're not blindsided. They get to make a decision ahead of time. And I like that we're the ones doing the content reviews, because we usually like the book, and want people to read it. As opposed to others who don't talk about the book's merit, only the content.

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  2. As a teenager, my parents always let me make my own decisions about reading. (If I wanted to own a book they didn't approve of, however, it came out of my own pocket.)

    I love the fact that you do content reviews. It saves me from having a repeat experience of the time I accidentally read an adult romance novel (Nora Roberts) when I was twelve.

    Bless my mother for only raising an eyebrow and not snatching it from my hands, but I could have been warned. :)

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  3. I think it's great that you do content reviews. Ultimately, I think it's the parents job to decide what is and is not appropriate for their kid to read, and content reviews are a great tool to do that, regardless of parenting style. For parents who are okay with their kids reading anything they want, it's still nice to know what's in the book so they can discuss is with them.

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    1. I agree. I let my daughter read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, but I'm still glad I knew what it was about, so that I could talk to her about it, and what she should do in that situation!

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  4. Our school library cannot possibly buy or hold every teen book, so our librarian's policy is not to shelve what might get us into trouble. He has teachers read and review the books before anything does or doesn't go on the shelves. Anything that doesn't make the cut, we just tell kids where they can find it in the public library. Mostly, this works. In fact, the only time he's ever had trouble was when a parent through a HISSY fit because Breaking Dawn was not on our shelves. (Really, sexual depictions, pedophilia, and a gruesome and bloody C-section? Well, we'd thought more parents would be upset if we DID offer it, but no, one lady freaked out and called a local news station to say we were censoring stuff, so we just bought a copy and stuck in on the shelves to shut her up. It's still there, but no one ever reads it, as it's "too long" by the average junior high kid's standards.)
    As a teacher, I've never tried to censor a book. I've occasionally warned kids about things, usually if I think the book is too hard for them. (I've had low-level seventh-graders think they could tackle Frankenstein, Les Miserables, and The Grapes of Wrath. I just gently warned them that I'd be happy to suggest something else if they found it too tough -- and each kid did, no surprises.) If a parent thinks it's okay for a 12-year-old to read Stephen King, then I don't question that. I actually DO question (inside, anyway) the parents who put ridiculous restrictions on their kids, especially those who think that all fantasy books are evil. (I had one uber-religious parent who wouldn't let her kid read anything except historical fiction. Period. She freaked out when we did Shakespeare as a class.)
    So, I think it's fine that you tell parents what's in a book. I have to do that all the time.

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    1. Typo: "threw" not "through."
      Sigh.

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    2. Agree! And too funny about Breaking Dawn. I saw a Parks and Rec episode that sounds similar to what you went through...haha!

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  5. I honestly see why you guys do what you do. I was one of those teens where my parents never bothered to check what I was reading because they themselves don't read, at all!

    So I started reading really steamy and gritty adult romance books at 16, was that the best decision of my life, maybe not but it certainly wasn't the worst. I have always been what people call an 'old soul' so even if the content was not for my age group I never did anything with the information. Heck I didn't even have a boyfriend until I was 17.

    So I'm glad you all do the content rating for the parents and teens who are picky about what they read. I'm not sure I'm going to read a book in the future before passing it off to a future child but it is what some parents prefer doing.

    Thanks for the great post!

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    1. Thanks, Alexa! I always love hearing your opinion! I think a lot of bookish types are "old souls" and can handle more than other kids their age. They're just more mature. I think my middle daughter will be that way.

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  6. Thank you so much for what you do! It is so helpful. I wish books had ratings just like movies.

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    1. I do too. I know they're not perfect, but they do give some kind of guideline, which would be nice.

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  7. I get to pick what my kid reads while she's under my roof. Period. If I had more time and wasn't feeling so sleepy, maybe I'd have said that more diplomatically. So, I appreciate what you do and why you do it.

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    1. Thanks, Emily! And that was very diplomatic.....haha

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  8. Well said! I'm a pretty conservative reader most of the time, so I like to know what i'm getting into before picking up a book. and if i had any children, you better believe i'd have a hand in the sorts of things they're reading.

    Thanks for what you do! :)

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  9. I wish I had a website like that when I was younger! My parents didn't care what I read, but I was very sensitive as a teenager and would have rather more easily avoided certain stuff I didn't want to read about, or books with really graphic violence.

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    1. Yeah, my daughter has a friend that's the same way, and she gets really upset when she really likes a book, then has to put it down because she can't handle the violence or whatever. She'd rather know up front, and that way she's not wasting her time, and not able to finish a book she started.

      Thanks for the compliment!

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    2. My younger sister borrowed my copy of 'The Bell Jar' (which I haven't read, but heard a lot about). When I asked her how she was doing on it, she said "I can't finish it. I'm on the last chapter, but it's...intense."

      I nodded and directed her to my library for a new book, but oddly enough I haven't gotten the Bell Jar back yet.

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    3. UGH, one of our tween reviewers (for Reading Tween) is really sensitive about stuff like that and she gets so aggravated when she's really into a story, then has to put it down because she can't take the violence or whatever. If she had known beforehand what was in it, she could have saved herself the hassle!

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  10. I don't necessarily see the correlation between book rating and book banning especially since movies and games already have those standards for people to know how to assess the content.

    My parents did not censor my reading habits, but they always wanted to know what I was reading. I think content ratings would factor into what I read if I'd had something like what you do though the story blurb was always the most important influencer.

    Thanks for the little extra you do to help readers make informed decisions on their next reading choices.

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    1. I don't really see the correlation either. That's always something that's confused me.

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  11. You are an awesome mum! I wish my mum or even someone else at my house, was reading and come and talk to me or even tell me "try this book". Even when i explain them what i read, then don't really understand what i'm talking about. I want to be with my kids exactly like you are.

    And personally i like your reviews :)

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    1. AWWW Thank you so much!!

      I love reading the same thing as my daughter. I feel like it's given us such a different relationship, and opened up so much more dialog. Like right now, I'm reading The Fault in our Stars, and I can't wait to give it to her and see what she thinks!

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  12. I completely agree with you!! I have a much younger sister who loves to read but doesn't want to read books with bad language or bedroom scenes. I also love to read so I frequently "preview" books for her. And I LOVE YA books! It's also helpful when my friends ask what their kids can read that doesn't have sex scenes. (13 year olds don't need that!)
    Thanks for what you do. :)

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    1. That's awesome that you do that for your sister! Luckily YA has gotten really fantastic and diverse, so it's not really a burden! haha!

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  13. Personally, I can't imagine why anyone would become offended by being offered more information. What you guys offer is a terrific service! As parents, there's no way we can read and screen everything out there for our kids to read. I'm very liberal on what I allow, I'm just happy they read at all! But I do like to know what's in there, in case they do want to talk about it later. So, thank you, and keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks Alan! I was pretty strict when my daughter was 13, but I had different reasons than most. For me, my daughter wasn't interested in dating or boys, she wasn't boy-crazy like so many her age, and I loved that! I wanted her to enjoy not having that pressure for as long as possible, so I didn't want her reading tons of romance and such. Of course now she's older, and reads all sorts of stuff, but even though she has crushes now, she's still not all about having a boyfriend, and I'm thankful for that. I'm glad she got to be a kid for longer than most!

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  14. Well said. This is also why your blog is so great. You're not judging, just providing enough information to choose books that match our taste and preferences!

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  15. I've never wrote a thank you to you guys before, but now's a great chance:

    My mother (is not uber-religious, mind you... but she-) likes to make sure what I'm reading is safe. When I was 12 and began getting into teen fiction, she thought there was no harm, considering that I'd found no awful content in middle grade books. But she quickly learned that many books had huge amounts of swearing and detailed sexual encounters. She hates reading fiction, and because I read so much so fast, she was exasperated when I brought her a huge stack of books at Barnes & Noble and she was forced to skim them. If she found anything even POINTING to the author's use of swearing or sex, she closed it and said, "Definitely not." Unless a friend who'd already read it said it was clean, I probably couldn't read it. Then I found your blog and website, and we both celebrated-haha. She didn't have to read anymore teen lit, and I had a way of reading the books that were RIGHT for me, not right to her incredibly high standards. (For instance, she has no problem letting me watch a movie with 15 F-words. A book with one? No way.) So with your blog, I weigh how much I want to read the book with what I think is an appropriate amount of language and sex for someone my age, and then I tell her it's good. She doesn't ask questions. We're both happy. Thank you. :)

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    1. Aaron, WOW! Thanks so much for commenting! I can't tell you how encouraging this is. Sometimes we wonder if we're actually helping people, so this is actually awesome!

      If there's ever a book you're really wanting us to read, don't hesitate to ask!

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  16. I'm a new contributor at www.reviewsgoodbad.com in which one can submit reviews on almost anything.
    I'm researching about guides on how to review a book and I stumbled at your article.
    This is so touching. It makes me realize that writing a review has the intent to help the readers in a way, so one must be responsible for whatever reviews he posts.

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    1. Thanks for the comment! Glad this post helped! :D

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  17. Okay, I have to say that I think I might be a little in love with you for this... Although I'm an author whose current YA book series is no stranger to language and some adult content. However, I'm also a bibliophile and parent of three children.

    That being the case, I believe it to be hugely important that parents are involved in their children's lives enough to know what they are reading, whether it be Dr. Seuss, Shakespeare, or Fifty Shades of Grey (no judgement, I know parents who've let their teens read it knowing full well what the content is). But like you said—and something I've been saying for years—everyone parents differently and like the commenter, Aaron's mother demonstrates, not all parents are big readers of fictional literature, and truth be told, some parents really don't care for reading at all.

    As a parent, I know what my children are capable of handling in a movie, book, and so forth, and as a reader, I have no problem previewing a book if I believe it to be necessary. But as an author, I have no idea what a parent might deem appropriate for their child (or themselves). With that fact in mind, I include a "disclaimer" on the online book descriptions letting potential readers know it "might not be appropriate for readers under the age of 16." It's only a guideline, but I feel like it's better than not giving any advanced warning at all.

    And although I strongly disagree with rating books as movies are rated in regards to content, I applaud your efforts in helping both readers and parents sort through the vast selection of YA books in their pursuit to find something appropriate that can be read and more importantly, enjoyed. Because after all, enjoying a story is the whole point of reading a book and therefore, writing them as well. ;-)

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