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Slate Magazine had a fascinating article today on horror and children's discovery of too-adult material. I thought that the His Dark Materials trilogy was dull, and I never read Flowers In The Attic, but I knew lots of girls who did, all at that age where they were "far too young" to be reading such a grown-up story. Even if you weren't the one who read it, all your friends did, and you absorbed quite a bit of the story anyway. And none of us girls who read it grew up to be bad people. Granted, there were the fair share of teenage pregnancies and delinquents by the time most of us graduated high school -- it was the kind of school known as "Yale to jail," and we meant that quite literally, with some kids going to Yale and some kids going to jail -- but that was hardly the fault of our reading material.

Anyway, here's the article. http://www.slate.com/id/2179380/

I thought it was interesting, and well worth sharing with people.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 7th, 2007 03:40 pm (UTC)
I read Flowers in the Attic (and several others that were similar) when I was probalby "too young" to be reading it, but somehow still managed to be astoundingly innocent when it came to certain things. Of course, at the time, I thought I was wordly, but looking back I was anything but. I think the loss of childhood innocence has a lot more to do with home environment-mainly parental time, attention, and direction-than anything else. It might take a village to raise a child, but the parents are still the parents, and they are the ones who really set the tone for their child's exposure to and absorption of the world around them.

... but that's just my opinion as an adult with no kids.
Dec. 7th, 2007 05:17 pm (UTC)
I didn't read Flowers In The Attic, but I did read Sybil. And I turned out okay. (Right? Right? *crickets*) I do think that trying to protect children by limiting their exposure to reading material and new ideas is utterly misguided. Most children learn about the cruelty of the world quite well from other children by the time they're ten. The books just confirm for them that adults know about cruelty and that, sometimes, something can be done about it.
Dec. 7th, 2007 05:10 pm (UTC)
I so wish people would get over this "adult" reading thing. I am sure if I tried really hard I could find some books that even I would agree are inappropriate for middle-school age children, but I am not going to look that hard. None of them are likely to be as soul-deadening as playing Grand Theft Auto for days on end, which is what a lot of kids that age do in Brooklyn. I think a library of pr0n would be preferable and contribute less of a loss of innocence.

Loss of innocence comes when a child believes that their parents will not try to protect them from the worst things the world holds. (The operative word is "try" because no parents can never entirely succeed and any child above six should begin to understand that.) I think that discovering there are bad things in the world, reading a dark fantasy novel, or knowing about the existence of incest does not destroy a child's soul.

I am a grandmother and still get laughed at for being a hopeless romantic, for believing I should be capable of helping everyone who needs my help, always go about looking for the happy ending, have very high standards of right and wrong and human justice, and I read all the dirty books of my parent's day as a pre-teen or young teenager.

Edited at 2007-12-07 05:11 pm (UTC)
Dec. 7th, 2007 05:19 pm (UTC)
I loved when Terry Pratchett wrote something to the effect of "Fairy tales do not teach children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales teach children that dragons can be killed."

I think the Discworld books should be required reading for every middle-school kid.
Dec. 7th, 2007 05:22 pm (UTC)
That's beautiful.
Dec. 8th, 2007 04:37 pm (UTC)
perelleth from the office
Hear hear! I am unearthing "Hogsfather" for next week's long flight, and I must say that Susan Sto Helit seems to me one of Pratchett's most rounded creations!

But of course children should only be exposed to one single offical truth and, if possible, to a daily dose of news and violent movies on tv...
Dec. 8th, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
Re: perelleth from the office
Preferably from Fox News, just so's they don't get any of that liberal media corrupting their tiny little minds.
Dec. 7th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
I will preface this by saying I am a 40+ woman with no children: Any time I hear anyone talking about how a certain book will cause children to murder, get pregnant, join a gang...whatever, I laugh myself silly. You are worried your kid is reading?! Have you watched the news?! Believe me, with the news these days, there is very little kids don't know. And as you said FP, kids don't need books to learn about cruelty. They learn that their first day at school. I wish my 15 year old niece was reading. If she was she might not be spending her time doing much worse things that she learned about without ever picking up a book.
Dec. 8th, 2007 12:33 am (UTC)
What with all the other things they could be doing, such as watching the news, reading is probably the least harmful thing that a kid can do. God forbid children should be exposed to Ideas.

They might become . . . .

Grad students!
Dec. 9th, 2007 06:27 am (UTC)
The kid that's actually reading is probably the last one you need to worry about.

When I was nine, I read hard Sci fi, with adult concepts, like Logan's run. When I was ten, I was busily reading Stephen King, and watching Quincy. When I was eleven or so, I read the exceptionally homo-erotic (for the time period) Interview With The Vampire, and Flowers in the Attic, etc, weren't far behind. I'd long since put away prodigious amounts of Poe, Lovecraft, and Bram Stoker. By fifteen, I'd read most of the sci fi and fantasy sections of the bookstore, and just as much horror. I'd read Thieves World, and believe me, it doesn't get much more adult. I'd read stunners like The Posession of Jessica Lang, and was well aware of what GOR was (NOT to my taste as a feminist, but I was still well aware of its existence). I'd also read widely on The Holocaust, and was well aware of the excesses of such time periods as the Ancient Roman one. I'd read true crime reasonably extensively, too. NONE of that was ever candy coated.

Where am I now, at 39? I'm a college graduate. I had a parking ticket once, and, though it probably was not entirely fair, I paid it. Did I become pregnant as a teen? NO. I waited until I'd graduated college to risk sex, and was involved in early AIDS prevention and awareness on my college campus, besides. I give back change overages, even when I could use the cash. I would never do violence to another human being who wasn't trying to seriously harm me or mine. I'm a published writer of non-fiction, and a non-published writer of various genre fiction. I'm in the process of starting up my own publishing business. I've held varios responsible positions over the years, and frankly, have one hell of a work ethic. I've not always been the most successful person on the planet, but any time I have done well at something, reading certainly was a help, and not a hinderance. I am certainly spiritual, and believe in erring on the side of kindness and basic decency when dealing with others. I keep my word.

In short, I am very much my mother's daughter. I had a wonderful parent, who actually...PARENTED. I could talk to her, and trust her to listen, and be there when I needed her. Chances are, if I read it, so did she. I loved books, and reading, but they didn't raise me. My mother did, and she instilled in me real values. She included in those a love of reading, and a hatred of censorship and of such crimes against humanity as book burning.

Sure, that's anecdotal, but let's face facts...if there's something these parents would have objected to, chances are, I was the one that had read it.

Dec. 9th, 2007 06:30 am (UTC)
various. Grr. :)

Dec. 9th, 2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
The kid that's actually reading is probably the last one you need to worry about.

That sentence should be blazoned onto the covers of parenting books, printed up as a counted cross stitch pattern, repeated once an hour on Fox News, and be hung over the door of every bookstore, library, school, and drugstore.
Dec. 10th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
Why thank you! :)

Maybe we should have a bumper sticker made up? :) Along with a little crossed out red circle surrounding the word censorship?

Dec. 10th, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
The little crossed out red circle is probably a bit much for bumper sticker design, but other than that, yeah, it'd make a great bumper sticker!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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