Movies, television, video games and most other forms of media have content ratings…but not books. Why do you think it is that books have no rating system to determine what is and isn’t appropriate?
It’s very hard to rate books, because it’s subjective. Age does not equal maturity and reading levels wildly vary from person to person. What one person considers appropriate for a 13 year old may be acceptable for an 8 year old to someone else. Seeing something in a movie or on TV and reading it in a book are very different experiences. The message conveyed through words leaves the interpretation and visualization to the imagination of the reader. It’s far easier to stumble upon inappropriate content in media than it is with books.
Should there be books that are kept out of the hands of children? Is it the responsibility of parents or should there be a standard book rating system to deem what’s appropriate?
There are definitely books out there that are not fit for children, but it is the responsibility of parents to determine what they are or aren’t ready for and keep an eye on what they’re reading. I was never restricted much in my reading choices as a kid as I was always above my reading level and I needed more complex books since the quick middle grade reads didn’t hold my attention for too long. As a result, I was reading YA novels well before I turned 13. The only rule I had was that I wasn’t allowed to choose titles from the adult section of the library until after I turned 15.
There is already a perfectly adequate classification system in place: children’s, middle-grade, YA, NA, Adult etc. As long as books are correctly labelled and promoted by publishers and booksellers, there’s no reason for any other rating system. It only takes a few minutes to search for some book reviews online to verify if the content is acceptable.
Placing a further rating on a book offers no real benefit in my opinion, and can also be very detrimental to readers above their level if it is enforced in some way as it is for movies in theaters. It also raises the question of who exactly would come up with these ratings. It’s impossible that this could be done without introducing personal bias into the equation because each person interprets a book differently. Besides there may be topics that, while appropriate for a certain age, are not something parents want their kids to be exposed to yet – and there’s no way to take that into account. Books are already being banned from school libraries for ridiculous reasons and something like this would only encourage that further. The other thing that could happen is that books discussing sensitive topics that would be beneficial for kids or teens to read could become far fewer if such rating systems decided they were inappropriate for the age group. Like movies, it’s possible that books could be pushed into a higher age category just because of a couple of pages that have content that is not fitting.
What definitely needs to be standardized however, are content and trigger warnings. How exactly this can be done without listing out every single thing and spoiling any plot points, I have no idea, but having read two books back to back in the last week alone that really should have forewarned the reader about what kind of content to expect, this is currently very fresh on my mind.
Do you think books should have content ratings? Share your thoughts in the comments below!