I have been sitting on this topic for almost two years. Mostly because people tend to have strong opinions on the subject, and strong opinions can sometimes lead to vicious arguments. Especially in the comfortable anonymity of the internet. The reason I’m posting this, though, is because I want to know what you all think. Just, please, keep it civil.
Okay, so, book ratings. Many people think this is a horrible idea, and many people think it’s a good thing. I’m on the fence, so I really want to hear your thoughts on the matter. To make it fair, I will share mine. :)
On the one hand, I can see how slapping a rating on a book could misrepresent it by only focusing on the negative. It could also make kids rush out to buy it simply because of its label, which kind of defeats the purpose of said label—not unlike how music CDs with the ‘Explicit Lyrics’ label was snapped up by kids simply because it had that label.
On the other hand, we have a successful example of a rating system that is widely accepted by all: movies. It’s not perfect, but it does provide a loose guideline of what to expect when we sit down to watch it. Or when our kids sit down to watch it. We know that R-rated movies could have nudity, the f-word, explicit sex scenes, graphic violence (psychological or physical), etc. We know that PG-13 movies don’t have nudity or explicit sex scenes (but there could implied intimacy), there is profanity but no use of the f-word, and any violence won’t be as vividly graphic. PG movies take things one step further down, with no implied sexuality (what exists is romantic in nature, not sexual), limited profanity, limited graphic violence, etc. And, of course, G-rated movies have romance with no sex, no profanity, no graphic violence, etc. Each movie is different, though, and I still screen most movies before letting my kids watch them. But I like having that rough guideline to follow.
I also appreciate the ‘Explicit Lyrics’ label on music. My kids listen to the radio a lot, and when they hear a song they like, they will sometimes ask me to download it. There’s no way I’m downloading the version with profanity for them, so I appreciate the two versions, and the label that comes with it. Even though this label was initially met with resistance, it hasn’t gone away and it serves a good purpose to this day.
So, I don’t know. Generally, I’m opposed to labels because it reduces something or someone to less than what they are. But, at the same time, I can appreciate how helpful a loose, movie-like rating system would be. Especially for families that have kids reading at a much higher level (like my nine-year-old) and finding age-appropriate material can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. I do read the books that my nine-year-old reads, but there are so many out there that I can’t always keep up. Especially since he can check out whatever he wants at his school library, which has books for kids K-12. It’s a conundrum...
What are your thoughts? Have you had an experience where you’re glad there isn’t a rating system? What about an experience where you wish there was one in place?