Ink Spells reviews provide five different pieces of information for you, my lovely blog reader, to assess whether a book is right for your young reader. Note the operative word there: YOU.
YOU are the one who is in charge of the media your children consume. While this is an empowering and awesome thing, it is also overwhelming. Back in the golden preschool age, when my choices were between Dora the Explorer and the thirtieth repetition of Thomas the Tank Engine, life was good. Monotonous, but simple. Once the sprouts broke into that over-5 zone, the land of blue dogs and talking trains was forsaken for any show that featured a weapon, a ranger or magical buses. Books rapidly became difficult to discern, as the munchkins’ reading levels zoomed well ahead of their tender years.
So, let’s talk about different ways to assess a book.
Reading Level: We’ve discussed this before – in short, your child doesn’t need to always read at their reading level, but a varied diet of literary challenges is good.
CSM: Common Sense Media, is a fantastic source of information, since they give age appropriate levels, and more importantly, content guidelines. Unfortunately, they can’t keep up with the zillions of books published every year.
Rating: At Ink Spells, the ratings are my assessment, based on the categories below.
Content: These serve as single word or phrase warnings about potentially concerning content.
Finally, I will try to give each book my own assessment of an AGE+ rating, similar to CSM. This is a guideline for YOU, the person in charge of your child’s media diet. I will mostly talk about books appropriate for ages 8-12, but may occasionally review YA books that have a strong popularity in the younger set.
Ratings Definitions: These are similar to the Motion Picture Association ratings, but not the same. Visual media is different from print media, which is a whole discussion worthy of a separate blog post.
G: General, appropriate for all ages. No foul language, violence, teen love, or drug/alcohol use, even by adults.
PG: Parental guidance for kids 12 & under. May contain mild language and comic book violence, but no blood, gore or overly graphic violence. No nudity, kissing (unless very chaste) or teen love (unless the innocent puppy love variety). No drug/alcohol use, even by adults.
PG-13: Parental guidance strongly recommended for kids age 12 & under. Same as PG, but may have one or more elements that induce caution for young readers: excessive violence, excessive language, a disturbing theme, implied teen sexuality, or drug or alcohol use by an adult. If I use this rating, look to the content section for an indication why.
YA: Not recommended for kids under 13. These books usually have teen protagonists fully engaged in angsty love or facing serious teen issues, including drug/alcohol use. They may have excessive language, implied sexuality/sensuality or simply be oriented towards teen readers. Some books with a YA rating may have tween protagonists, but be more appropriate for YA audience, due to mature or disturbing themes, or excessive or graphic violence. I love YA books, but they’re not meant for younger readers.
As I’ve said, it is up to YOU to guide your children’s reading. The ratings are meant to arm you with the information to make a wise choice.
Grail Knight to Indiana Jones: “But choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.”
OK, so choosing a book isn’t THAT dramatic. But like the good Dr. Jones, choose wisely.