Banned Books Week: Rating System

Other forms of media have “ratings” and restrictions in place to keep them from younger audiences without parental permission. Books do not. Might this have something to do with the book censorship movement? Do you think age recommendations/ratings would be better than attempts to ban books outright, and why?

Dorothy: I think age recommendations would be great, but not age requirements. Different people mature at different ages, and someone who’s 12 and having her period and experiencing sexual attraction and reading at a 16-year-old level is ready for different books than someone who’s 12 and less emotionally and intellectually mature. I think it’s fine, even helpful for parents who want to know what their kids are reading, to say “recommended for 15+ because of non-graphic sex” but I think if a 13-year-old wants to buy/borrow that book, or their parents want to buy/borrow it for them, they should be able to.

Akhi: No. I don’t think movies, games, and television should have a rating system either. Maybe some recommendations, but that’s about all. We’ve managed for thousands of years without such things. Let people and parents use their common sense. It is a bit weird that we have these systems now, designed to shield people against such things (violence, sex, etc.) but they’re going to be exposed to it all the more intensely and faster than in previous eras.

Rebecca: I definitely agree with the idea of adding ratings to books, and I concur with Dorothy above that ratings should merely be suggestions vs. restrictions. While no one should be barred from reading a particular book I think it’s helpful for parents to be able to have conversations with their kids about why a book might have mature content they might not want to be exposed to, or for a kid/teen to be aware that they are going to be consuming things that they may or may not be ready for. I read several books when I was a pre-teen that included graphic violence and (in one case) an explicit rape scene and while I am not sorry I read those books, I think at the age I was it was far more traumatic than it should have been and advanced warning would have been appreciated.

Madeleine: Here’s the question: who’s enforcing this rating system? If I were ten years old and tried to check out or purchase Gone with the Wind, a book clearly written for and marketed at adults featuring things like racism and spousal rape, would someone say, “Sorry, kid. You’ve got to be at least 17 with ID and/or a parent in order to get that?” (I chose this book as an example because I did read it at 10 years old without any sort of pushback from the adults in my life.) How would you feel about being carded or ID-checked in order to purchase a book? What if a book receives a version of an R-rating for its strong language like, say, the classic film Stand By Me? Yeah, I’m laughing at the idea as well. It comes down to the idea of personal responsibility of the parents and/or the reader. Bookstores already have different sections of their store (adult, young adult, young readers), so it’s up to the parents and readers to inform themselves on what they’re reading because publishers and bookstores are already doing a good deal of work to try and give you a heads up as to difficulty of content and maturity of themes just in their own choices of where books are shelved and marketed. Ultimately, every reader is different (no matter their age), and I think trying to inhibit a reader’s ability to check out, purchase, or have access to more “mature” materials is a wholly ridiculous idea.


*Nota bene: All links to books available for purchase through Amazon are affiliate links, which means Backroom Whispering Productions receive a small percentage of the sales made through that link.

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