A long while ago - long enough that I do not remember which enlightened mother I was talking to - I was party to a discussion about Children's (YA) Literature. And the topic turned to naughty language. The mother said she never attempted to censor her children's reading habits. If they didn't understand the word, they would just move on. Or they might come and ask her. Or they (more probably) already knew the word.
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Is It Time To Rate Young Adult Books for Mature Content?
A new report finds that nearly all young adult bestsellers contain at least some profanity
Most parents are happy to see their kids nose down in a book, but according to a new report, they might want to check out what they're reading more closely.
Among the top 40 best-selling children's books on the New York Times list between June 22 and July 6, 2008, one researcher found more than 1,500 profane words, ranging from Gossip Girl—The Caryles's 50 "F-bombs" to Diary of a Wimpy Kid's occasional reference of bodily functions. Sarah Coyne, lead researcher of the study and a professor in Brigham Young University's department of family life, checked for profanity in five different categories: George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words," sexual words, excretory words, 'strong others' (bastard, bitch) and 'mild others' (hell, damn). All but five books, including many targeted to kids as young as 9, had at least one instance of profanity.
Coyne thinks a ratings system on book jackets would help parents decide what's appropriate for their kids to read. It's a subject many are afraid to touch, with the talk of censorship or restricting books conjuring up images of book burnings and infringing on First Amendment Rights.
"I think we put books on a pedestal compared to other forms of media," Coyne says. "I thought long and hard about whether to do the study in the first place—I think banning books is a terrible idea, but a content warning on the back I think would empower parents."
While books like Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars aren't ever going to end up alongside Catcher in the Rye or Huckleberry Finn in American literary canon, those books' messages are still important, experts argue.