COARSE LANGUAGE AND violence in children’s books concerns parents according to a survey of libraries in the UK.
The survey revealed that there are dozens of children’s books that have provoked complaints – books such as Roald Dahl, who is attacked for his use of coarse language in the books Revolting Rhymes and Even More Revolting Rhymes.
The Telegraph reports that each complaint results in an investigation by library staff. Library staff often defend their decision to offer the books for loan, but they often end up agreeing with the parent and have removed the items from the shelves or moved them to another area, away from children.
One book removed from the shelves was More and More Rabbits, a children’s story by Nicholas Allan about two rabbits, Mr and Mrs Tail, who can’t stop having babies.
The Hunger Games, which is currently the number one best seller in Ireland, is one of the most complained about books in the US. The books, which have sold 23 million copies worldwide, are about a reality TV show in which twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule – kill or be killed. Reasons for challenging the popular book is that it is – anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic and violence.
In the US authors who have had their books challenged have debated the issue through ‘Banned Book Week‘. The debate on the censorship of books in US schools and libraries is part of the American Library Association initiative and allows authors like Ellen Hopkins have their say through YouTube on what their books are about.
Books that are on the 2011 list that have been complained about in the US even include classics like To Kill A Mocking Bird for reasons such as offensive language and racism.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie a spokesperson from Children’s Books Ireland said “there haven’t been lists published here of books that have been withdrawn or challenged that I am aware of”. Internationally however there is more of a discussion on the matter she said.
One Irish children’s bookseller told TheJournal.ie that it is the content of many teen books that are a cause of concern to parents. The Twilight series is often one that parents’ later return back to the shop about. Twilight made it onto the US 2010 book challenges list.
So should children’s books come with a recommended age certificate similar to movies?
“Age banding has been an issue here in Ireland and the UK in recent years, though it hasn’t been much under discussion in the past 2 years,” said the Children’s Books Ireland spokesperson. The organisation’s magazine Inis discussed the issue of age banding in an article entitled Age Banding Children’s Books: Useful Guidance or Censorship? One of the arguments is that children are individuals, they have different reading levels and have different maturity levels. A who’s who of children’s writer and illustrators have signed up to the ‘no to age banding’ campaign with Terry Pratchett, Jacqueline Wilson and Phillip Pullman signing up.
“From our experience, parents are often concerned about the subject matter in books that are being read by ages 10 –13 approximately. The Twilight series is a good example – especially as it became very popular and younger kids were reading them than I think the publisher originally planned it for perhaps,” said the Children’s Books Ireland spokesperson.
“Our advice for parents is always, that if they are worried, to read the book first and discuss it with their kids. Much better to have a conversation about the book when they are totally informed rather than relying on hearsay or media reports which might not be totally accurate,” said the Children’s Books Ireland spokesperson.