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I’m concerned by the level of violence in some of the children’s books my 11 year-old is reading. What can I do to protect him?

Ah, join the club.  Judging by the many conversations I have had both with people who work in the book trade and with other parents, the level of inappropriate “content” in teen books (by which I mean principally but not exclusively violence or sexually explicit material) is a matter of growing concern to many but one thing is clear – it’s unlikely to change

I recently spoke with a twelve-year-old boy about a zombie series I found particularly violent. I said I found it gruesome. My twelve year old friend said, “That’s exactly what makes it so brilliant!” I suppose the question in answer to your question is, should we be trying to protect our children from what they read?  Kids have always turned to books to further their knowledge of the world. They read for fun but also to push back the boundaries of what they know. In the past, we may have looked for “content” on our parents’ book-shelves, now it’s in the children’s section at the library. Then, when the grown-up books rocked our boat a bit too much, we could scurry back to the solid comfort of the children’s section.  Now… well, the good news is not all children’s books are about gore and pillage!  I don’t think you could or should stop your son from reading the books that he enjoys, but there are plenty of exciting, action packed adventure series out there which don’t have an inappropriate level of violence. Ask your librarian or bookseller to advise you on these, and while you’re at it ask them also for some gentler, more thoughtful fare to vary your son’s high-octane diet. Be warned, he may resist your suggestions… but at this age children’s reading habits veer wildly between the excitement of new horizons and the comfort of familiar turf.  Don’t be surprised if once he’s finished The Hunger Games he wants to re-read all his old Wimpy Kid books.  Don’t try to stop him either, but when he’s finished, gently steer him towards something different.  You can’t immure him against the violence in children’s books, but you can show him alternatives. In this case, as in so many others, variety is key.

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