Friday, September 6, 2013

My thoughts: Curse words in children's books

We read lots of books at our house.  We've been reading to our boy since he was in the womb actually and have gone to the library most weeks of his life to check out a bag of books.  As he has grown up and learned to read on his own, of course his interests changed as has his reading level.   Last year as a third grader he read over three million words as part of the Accelerated Reader Program.  He has enjoyed mysteries since I introduced him to the Boxcar Children and then he became interested in the Hardy Boys.  I have wondered what series will be next for him and how we will keep his love of reading as he advances. 

As a Mom it is important for me to monitor what he is reading.  When he finds a new author, I like to check it out and see if I can find any reviews.  I was happy for him when he came home from a library trip (to a public library) with some new spy books.  They were two books from the same series, and he had started one of them.  One was Spy School and the other Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs.  I checked on the AR site to find out the level and then did a search for reviews of the books.  Reviews for Spy School came up that said this book has curse words.  The age level does say 8 and up as well as grades 3-7.

I continued on and did a search of the author and found a blog post he wrote on his blog title "Bad Words" (I've linked to the article if you wish to read it; it does contain curse words in it) where he basically says he didn't know people would be offended with the words he used in his books. (This particular post he is referring to words in a different book actually, also geared to the same age range.)  And in response to his question "could a few words change the number of stars I give a book in a review".....YES it can and does!  And YES I change my opinion of movies because of the language too.   

This is disturbing to me on so many levels and brought up a host of questions in my mind.  Are curse words really necessary in children's fiction?  What is the point?  Do other parents allow their children to read books they know to have curse words, or do they even care?  Do they even monitor what their children read, or are they too busy with life to pay attention, thinking "at least they are reading" (which I totally disagree with this idea)?

To me this is one of those things that a parent needs to take a stand and tell the child why they are not allowed to read the book.  (In this case I told my son and he didn't pick up the book again and it is in the bag to be returned to the library.)   Now I know some may be of the viewpoint that a curse word here and there is not going to hurt a child or make them start saying those words.  However, I think we have to take a stand as Christians to say "NO this is unacceptable and I will not be supporting your writing." Period.  If more people did this instead of just letting it slide and say "a few words doesn't matter," then maybe authors (and Hollywood as well) would get the message that we don't want our children growing up reading or hearing these words. 

I realize that many kids these days  say curse words because they hear their parents saying them and hear them on TV constantly (something else I monitor closely for my son because there is too much garbage out there, but that's a different post). 

I also know that I can't shelter my son from ever hearing curse words, and he may come across one in a book he reads.  But I feel I can do my part to keep them unnecessarily out of his life.  I do not read books with curse words in them so why would I want to let my child read such? 

You may think you can skip over it and no harm will be done; and that may be so.  But why even plant that seed?  Repeated exposure to these words causes people to become numb to their usage and therefore these words become acceptable when 20 years ago they were not.  I realize that things in this time have changed from when I was a kid. I remember when I was a child it bothered me to see "shut up," "stupid," and "dumb" in books.  I mean it really bothered me; I wasn't allowed to say those words and so to see them in books offended me.  And now we find books for 4th graders with curse words in them?  Words that I don't even say and won't type here?  It may be a good story, but if an author chooses to use that language in a book for children then I find that totally unacceptable.    

So what do you think?  Is it a big deal to monitor the words in the books we allow our children to read?  Do you care if your child reads books with curse words?

Interestingly, my husband received a publication called Imprimis from Hillsdale College with an article called "The Case for Good Taste in Children's Books" by Meghan Cox Gurdon.  I read the article and was shocked at some of the things being printed in young adult fiction.  I thought it was an excellent article and wanted to mention it here. Do parents even know their children are reading this?

Have a day of blessings!

5 comments:

Catie said...

I think it is so important to protect our kids! They will be exposed to garbage their entire lives, the years they live without it will just be a few. My little boy is only 2 1/2, but I try to watch what I say and what he watches on tv. I will continue to do so until he is grown!

Bonnie said...

I agree! I feel it's our duty to monitor what "goes in" to our children!

Afton smith said...

I have a problem. My daughter is 8 years old. She brought home a book from school about slavery. This book contains the D word twice. It has the N word (derogatory term for black people) many times. I read her books first. I can not let her read this book! She is supposed to read out loud. We do not use these words. How can she read words that she is not allowed to say! I have taught my child about slavery and the N word. She knows the pain it caused and still causes. I think this is a good book, but not for a 8 year old. I do not want to be a trouble making parent, but how did this book get approved for the reading program for grade 3?

mymothermode said...

I have quit reading books and watching movies since I think I should not hear garbage! We have more than one child (3-5th grade) reading advanced level books and are just now realizing just what we have been encouraging them to read! I am teaching littlest to read and have no time to 'pre-read' everything. It looks like reading reviews will have to suffice and I'd still better be quicker than these bookworms!

mymothermode said...

I have quit reading books and watching movies since I think I should not hear garbage! We have more than one child (3-5th grade) reading advanced level books and are just now realizing just what we have been encouraging them to read! I am teaching littlest to read and have no time to 'pre-read' everything. It looks like reading reviews will have to suffice and I'd still better be quicker than these bookworms!