Today's Tune: Hands Open
You might have maybe heard that it's Banned Books Week or something? Heh.
I'm planning on posting about one of my personal favorite banned books tomorrow (actually, it's a series of three), so stay tuned for that! In the meantime, I'd like to discuss something I see bandied about a lot when the subject of book banning comes up: wouldn't it be easier/better just to impose a ratings system on books? You know, like movies?
And here's my opinion on that: no. No, it wouldn't.
It's difficult for me to explain exactly why this concept bothers me so much, other than telling you that I don't believe literature should be "kept" from anyone, or that there's any sort of blanket age when a person is "ready" to read a certain book. Some children and teens are mature enough to handle certain themes, some aren't.
Also, I feel a rating system would be fairly arbitrary. Who would decide which books are best for which ages? Do we base it on reading level, or specific content? If content, than what sort of content? Presence of sexuality? Swearing? Violence? Themes? Religious viewpoint? Age of the protagonist? What level of violence is okay for a 10-year old, and what is okay for a 15-year old?
What do we rate the Bible? There's a LOT of sex and violence in there. How about Shakespeare? I mean, you've READ Shakespeare's plays, right? That stuff is LOADED. And also taught in nearly every pubic school in America.
What if a book doesn't contain sex, but the characters briefly mention it? Does that need to be noted along with a "contains sexuality" tag? How specific are we going to get here?
Not to mention the monumental nature of this task. First, a universal rating system would need to be put in place. Then, every book (EVERY. BOOK.) would need to be read and ran through this rating system to determine the appropriate rating. That's approximately 170,000 books a year in this country alone. And boy, do we have a serious backlog of previously published work to get through. Compare that to the approximately 600 films released a year. Yeah. Yeah.
And what of self-publishing? Who rates those? And if a book is rated Teen, does that mean a kid has to produce identification to prove that they're X number of years old before they're allowed to check out or purchase a book?
I have kind of a bucking bronto reaction to the implication that literature is something that shouldn't be accessible to a portion of the population, even if that population is children. I like to think that a novel is about the overall theme of the work, not a scene or two. I want people to decide for themselves what literature suits them and what doesn't.
To be fair, I think a parent has the right to decide if they don't think a certain novel is appropriate for their kids. I just balk at the idea of some arbitrary rating system deciding for everyone which books are "okay" for which people. You just can't pigeonhole literature that way. The themes of fiction can resonate for any age group, and who am I to say otherwise?
What are your thoughts on rating books?