Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Language Barrier

I may not have shared this with you, but I love to read and talk about books. Really, it's true. And since most of the books I read come from the children's section, a lot of children like to talk to me about books. Imagine that :) One of my favorite readers is Olivia. I've known her since she was in my 2nd grade class. She's now a 6th grader and we like a lot of the same books.

On Saturday, between soccer games, she saw me reading a book and of course wanted to know all about it. I wasn't too far into it, so I let her read the jacket copy and the first few pages. I told her I would loan it to her when I was done.

Everything was cool until the d***head showed up.

I'm no prude and I certainly went through my stage of using the "F" word as a noun, verb and adjective all in the same sentence. But I try to be careful when I'm recommending books to other people's children. I'm sure most kids probably know far more curse words than they let on, I just don't want to be the one responsible for introducing new ones!

Granted, the book is a YA. But nothing else in the story is objectionable for a younger reader. It's a fabulous book, one of the best I've read. Unless you're 11. And you've never heard that word. In fact, if you're familiar with this word minus the ***, I highly recommend that you read the book. It's beautifully written, romantic, disturbing, futuristic...I really loved this book. And the way she used d***head in the story made me laugh out loud. But...

I emailed Olivia's mom and told her my dilemma. We agreed that maybe I shouldn't pass this book along to her just yet. Then I felt like I'd betrayed Olivia. Maybe I should have been the cool adult who hands her the book and says, "Just don't tell your mother."

What would you have done?


Tana said...

I do appreciate realistic YA. I'll keep an eye out for it!

lotusgirl said...

It sounds like a fabulous book. In your position, you're better off letting the parent know. It's not that bad of a word, and, if that's the only one, it sounds pretty mild, but some parents can be real sticklers about that kind of thing. Better safe than sorry. If the kid wants to defy the parent, that's another issue and not on your conscience.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

It's becoming more an issue with the explosion in YA and now edgy YA/crossover. I notice bookstores have some MG in YA sections and vice versa. Probably hard for them to know where each is better suited. And there are vast differences in word use, sexual content,etc. As an adult I gobble them all up, but I would pause before giving some of them to a pre-teen or young teen.
Here's a story. My daughter worked in the children's section of a bookstore and told parents and/or children if she knew content was edgy. Surprisingly, some children said they did not feel ready for that subject matter and passed without their parents input. It's such an individual thing.

Unknown said...

I agree--I love that book. But I certainly wouldn't hand it to a child who I didn't think was ready for it. Not just the language--there are a few scenes in there that imply situations I wouldn't want a child reading.

Give her Lois Lowry THE GIVER instead.

Sherrie Petersen said...

T.Anne: It's very realistic, and yet it's futuristic. I think you would enjoy it.

Lois: That's kind of how I felt. I didn't want her mother coming back to me and saying why did you do this!

Tricia: It's a huge issue with preteens. Olivia reads a LOT and I know her mother doesn't screen what she reads too much so she has probably come across plenty more than her mother thinks!

Beth: I haven't read The Giver. I'll have to check it out.

PJ Hoover said...

LOL at your cool adult comment.

The book is appropriate for 6th and up imho. And it's not like kids aren't hearing that word at school. Or hearing about tons of stuff.
Maybe the mom should read it and then formulate her opinion.

I loved it!

okay just read Beth's comment. The Giver. Now this book I had some issues on appropriateness with. It's in the elementary school. Won the Newbery. And people are complaining about The Graveyard Book?????

Julie Dao said...

I think you did the right thing by letting the child's mom know. In cases like this it's usually best to let the parent decide what their daughter shouldn't read. Maybe you can get her mother to read the book first and then pass it on to her. Thanks for the recommendation! I'll have to check this book out. :)

Anonymous said...

These are the books I tell Moms that maybe they should read the book, too, in case kid wants to talk about the word. Or the event. Funny, I loved that book, too, and I don't even remember the word!

You, like to talk about books?! I'm in the same boat. Altho yesterday I was in the teen section of the library and, for the 1st time, I felt like they were looking at me like I didn't, um...belong. I stayed. :)

Susan R. Mills said...

My son is in 6th grade and he knows every curse word out there. I think most kids do. I was about to put a curse word in the book I'm working on now, but I asked my kids what they thought. They all said they read books with those words in them all the time. My 6th grader said his teaher has even read them aloud to the class. She beeps out the bad word, but the kids all know it's there. But I'd probably have done the same thing you did. Ultimately, the mom has the right to keep her daughter from being exposed to it.

Mim said...

Recently I had a similar situation. I ran into a friend and her daughter at the library. She was also eleven, and she had a book that I just finished reading and positively adored. But the book was not for an eleven year old. And I know her mom and knew that she wouldn't be happy with her reading it.

So I told the mom and explained why and told her that she should look over it before her daughter read it. I felt bad about it, since I don't believe in censorship and since I bought the book. It's just something I'd want to discuss with my daughter when she read it, especially if she was eleven.

Who knows if I did the right thing or not? But I did it.

Kristi Faith said...

While personally, that word wouldn't bother me as a parent-perhaps because I write a tad edgy as well-As a parent, I would appreciate your thoughtfulness in informing me about something that could be offensive in a book I hadn't read. I think you did the right thing and I would have bypassed "cool" for "safe" :)

C.R. Evers said...

I would have done the same thing. I'm respectful of parents guiding what their children read.

My problem is that I might have read the word and been so engrossed in the book that I might have been oblivious to it.

It was an awesome book. I hope she'll be able to read it some day.

Maybe you could give it to the mom to read and see if maybe the story content might make her change her mind. You never know.

lisa and laura said...

OK, don't stone me, but I totally would have snuck the kid the book. We grew up in a house where we were allowed to read whatever we could get our grubby little hands on. It was kind of awesome.

I'm guessing that most 11 year olds are familiar with the term and if not wouldn't you rather she read it in a fabulous book instead of hearing it on the radio or seeing it in the latest episode of Gossip Girl?

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i woudl have given it to the mom and let her decide

Sherrie Petersen said...

PJ: I'm guessing the daughter might know the word and the mom just isn't aware. I'm really going to have to read The Giver!

Julie: I do plan to give the mother the book to read. I think she'll like it.

Becky: I think it jumped out at me because I knew Olivia wanted to read it so I was more aware of the content with that in the back of my mind.

Susan: My son told me they had a substitute who didn't realize she was supposed to beep out the words and read them out loud from Inkheart. Of course the kids thought it was hilarious :)

Mim: I think being able to discuss with your child what they are reading is so important, whether it's words or situations or even emotions that the characters are experiencing.

Kristi: It's always hard to tell what parents will be offended by so I did opt for safe in this case.

Christy: I think I noticed the word because I knew Olivia wanted to read the book so knowing that changed my perspective as I read. I do plan to give it to the mom to read.

LiLa: Why am I not surprised?? :)

Shelli: I do plan to loan it to the mom. I have a feeling she'll like the book and maybe talk about it with her daughter.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I've had this same experience with students in my high school classes, believe it or not. It's always a dance, but it's so worth it when they fall in love with a book.
I love this site! :)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Sherrie, I'm a former elementary teacher and mother of a thirteen year old. I think you made a wise choice talking to her Mom. I do think you should explain your thoughts on the books language with her.

I love Laurie Halse Anderson and have let my 13 year old read most of them, but not Twisted. Some things are better left until they are a bit older.

Having the discussion will keep you in the cool teacher mode. :)

Katie Anderson said...

Oh Sherri! Dilemma indeed. I think you did the right thing. I can't wait to read it!

Go read Lisa and Laura's post today

Ronald L. Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ronald L. Smith said...

I think I would have given the kid the book, but then again, I'm not a parent, so I don't get the whole parent thing.

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