I’m back this Friday participating in another Let’s Talk Bookish post, as always hosted by the amazing Rukky @ Eternity Books and awesome Dani @ The Literary Lion! For this week, our topic is: Content Ratings.
This is super interesting to me, because I’ve never really thought about content ratings not being used with publishing. They are used within movies, television and video games to help determine the appropriate audience. So, why not books?
Why do you think it is that books have no rating system to determine what is and isn’t appropriate?
Honestly, this is such a fun question! I’ve never thought of it before, like I mentioned. I have no idea why there isn’t a formalized content ratings system. Perhaps the “age range” of the book is meant to serve in a similar purpose? So they didn’t feel the need to create another system to narrow or clarify it even further? That’s the closest reason I can think of. Growing up, the book’s age range was definitely used at school to determine what was appropriate or not.
Should there be books that are kept out of the hands of children?
I mean, a child shouldn’t have access to books with graphic sex or violence, right? But, in this case, I think it makes more sense for the use of content warnings for books, rather than specific content ratings. To me, content ratings can be a little too vague and…strict, in a way? Like, at school, I had to fight to read books shelved in the “young adult” section when I was middle-schooler, despite reading at a higher level (because reading was my only hobby). Yet plenty of the books I checked out from my public library, I could handle, both content and reading level. Yet at school, there was never a clear answer of why I couldn’t read it.
If content warnings were widely implemented, however, I feel it’d be a lot easier. Instead of telling me I can’t read from an entire section of the library until I’m older, I could search by content warnings and avoid specific things I wasn’t ready for or not interested in.
Is it the responsibility of parents or should there be a standard book rating system to deem what’s appropriate?
This…is also complicated, to me. Perhaps it’s just me coming from a very sheltered childhood, but I don’t like the idea of anyone telling someone else what they can and cannot read. I do think parents and educators should be aware of what they promote or reject and pay attention to the whys.
Are you telling a child they cannot read a book because they are eight and it’s a YA book with known graphic sex scenes? Or because they’re a teenager and it features a queer couple and that’s against your views? Likewise, are your shelves diverse in topics, representation and the voices of the authors who wrote them?
I think those questions are more important to evaluate, personally. Especially when you’re in a position to shape someone’s reading experience at an early age. That, and not killing a love of reading by forcing students to read outdated, racist classics, but that’s a discussion for another day, loves. 💀
In sum, I think content ratings are interesting to consider, but content warnings serve a better and much more needed purpose! What about you? Was this topic as new a consideration to you as it was me or have you considered it before? What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!
I definitely see your point Nicole–I take care of kids and a rating system would make it easy to tell at a glance if a book is appropriate for the kiddos, but at the same time parents, librarians and teachers can use it to police what a kid has access to, and could make sure their kids don’t see anything outside their worldview. I think warnings would be a better system, and there’s a few bookstores in my city that have that sort of thing. I know as a kid my parents weren’t super involved in what I read because they weren’t big readers themselves, and warnings would have been helpful. If I read something that was scary or too much for me I felt like I couldn’t talk to my parents about it. because I’d get in trouble for reading something “bad”. If I’d had a warning, I could have avoided that completely. Great discussion!
Yes, exactly!! I didn’t think of it either as the perspective of not being involved at all with a kid’s reading and thus having unfiltered access to everything, but some warnings would have definitely been helpful there!! And I definitely feel the connection of fearing about reading something “bad” and then telling no one about it. Thank you so much for adding to this discussion!!
Hasini @ Bibliosini says
“Are you telling a child they cannot read a book because they are eight and it’s a YA book with known graphic sex scenes? Or because they’re a teenager and it features a queer couple and that’s against your views? Likewise, are your shelves diverse in topics, representation and the voices of the authors who wrote them?” I love this passage!
I totally agree with you on how problematic content ratings can be, and I think content warnings are a lot more useful in that sense. I think libraries should start implementing a system of content warnings, rather than ratings, in how they cater to their audience, but that’s something that would take a long time to implement.
Thank you so much, Hasini! I am so glad that passage resonated!
And I agree! Though something I didn’t mentioned, but should have, is the idea of implementation, because you’re right: it would be challenging, because I think it’d need to come from the author’s themselves, to make sure the content warnings were correct and accurate, and not skewed. Or perhaps a team, so more people could offer ideas of what could be considered triggering and what not.
It’d be challenging, to be sure, but I’d love to see an effort made, at least!
Hasini @ Bibliosini says
Yeah, implementation is another issue all on its own. Though we as book bloggers include content warnings, it’s still pretty subjective what we include!
Louise H says
Fantastic answers. I’d not thought about reasons such as “Are you telling a child they cannot read a book because they are eight and it’s a YA book with known graphic sex scenes? Or because they’re a teenager and it features a queer couple and that’s against your views?” I guess because I HOPE I’m tolerant of others and a book featuring a queer couple, a black heroine etc would not even register as something to be concerned about, because for me it isn’t.
I remember a (religious) friend discussing how if one of her children came out as gay when they grew to be adults she would not be able to accept that. My mind could not comprehend how a parent could EVER reject their own flesh and blood over something like sexuality. Teenagers often struggle to find their place in the world as it is, to be denied access to books featuring a character they can identify with is criminal to my mind.
Louise, I definitely connect! It’s very disheartening to think about people being so closedminded and not open to any other perspectives or worldviews but their own!
Great post, Nicole! You explored the pros and cons really well! I totally agree with what you said about content warnings – I also mentioned that as an alternative in my post to content rating systems – content ratings themselves are too subjective to standardise!
Thank you so, so much! I haven’t blog hopped yet, but I’m stoked to read your answers to this week’s prompt! 😀
Stephen Writes says
I loved the points you made! Maybe not ratings, but content warnings should definitely be used more widely. That would be a more inclusive way of doing it.
Thank you!! It’d be a refreshing change, that’s for certain.
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says
I tend to write a VERY basic content rating in my reviews. It typically just tells the romance content (such as no romance, nothing more than kissing, characters have sex but it’s not shown, or characters have sex and it’s shown on the page). I also mention violence, but I’m pretty generic about that too unless something stands out as being graphic.
For me, the thing that made me want to include this was thinking of my kids. My daughter especially just didn’t like a lot of violence (or ANY sex) in her books for a long time, and it was hard to find info about the books she was interested in.
Yes, exactly! Even the most “basic” of content ratings could be so, so helpful for that exact reason!