In my discussion about the banning of Water for Elephants for high school age kids by a school district in NH, the question of age appropriateness came up, and I started wondering what that really means, and to what age does what book belong? Can one really take an age appropriate brush and color all kids the same age the same color?
I wrote about how in third grade I was a real scared kid–all sorts of stuff freaked me out-and one book on the shelves of my classroom terrified me more than others. My mother demanded to know why such as scary book was allowed. This was a different time, teachers didn’t kowtow to parents, they trusted their own judgement. So she explained that although my sensibilities were thrown, other children found it to be funny stories of ghosts, which in retrospect, it certainly was. She didn’t remove it, thank goodness, and my mom understood, also, thank goodness.
Third grade I was, uh, wait, let me do the math, ok, 9. So what is age appropriate to read? Mrs. Shepherd had us reading chapter by chapter in class, The Wizard of Oz books, not just the first. Anyone who has actually read the books know they are not sweet and lovely as the film, excepting the Wicked Witch, of course. There are all sorts of weird creatures and situations and violence. I loved them. So, for me Wizards OK, ghost stories, not.
In 7th grade, oh gee, I didn’t know I’d need to do math for this blog, got it–I was 13. We read Romeo and Juliet–oh boy, sex sex sex, except no one understood Shakespeare so we didn’t reap any benefits. Ha. And I loved the play. Is this age appropriate? And if so, why isn’t Water for Elephants alright? (although, again I state that high schoolers were reading it, not 13 year olds)
And who should decide for one child or an entire class? Parents? Yeah, get a huge group of parents to arrive at a consensus on titles to use, lol. The school librarians? Individual teachers? School boards? The principal?
When selling juvenile books, how does a bookseller decide? I know many books have an age range on them, do booksellers use this as a guide? If the child is a returning customer, I would think there would be more leeway, because the seller has had time to access the kid’s maturity and reading level.
So, what do you all think? I really am curious.