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Friday, April 29, 2016

How Old Is Too Young For Blue Language In Books?



“What the fuck?”

That is how I felt when I saw those three words in my 11-year-old son’s reading choice, an award-winning, critically-acclaimed book, I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson.

School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Boston Globe, Time, New York Times and others rated it as one of the best YA books of the year. The New York Public Library and Chicago Public Library put it on their best-of-the-year list.  The author’s site describes the book as “radiant,” that will “leave you breathless and teary and laughing – often all at once."

It sounds like a great book.  The best-selling novel could be in the hands of our youth for generations to come.

But have we crossed a line somewhere?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude.  I long ago decided to let my kids – by age six – say “shit” and a few other funny-sounding words.  But I draw the line with the F-word.  I do my best not to say it in front of them.  But now my son, in fifth grade, is reading a book with this line in it.

I don’t oppose the use of the word. All great books cover controversial topics and sometimes blue language goes along with them.  But I didn’t realize the day has come where the F-word is so normal and mainstream that we let kids in elementary school read books with such words.

Age-appropriate concepts, terms, or actions are hard to define.  My eight-year-old is not reading a book with that word in it.  No fucking way!  But my son is.  Is it too soon? Is it really necessary?  On the other hand, so what?

He’s old enough to grasp the use of the word.  Soon he’ll be exposed to such language more regularly as he enters middle school.  But I thought we could keep him innocent for a little longer.  He doesn’t even turn his head to look at beautiful young women. He hasn’t entered the world of sex-obsessed, drug-taking, language-offending teens.

But he will.  With the reading of this book it’s begun.  I think what bugs me is his school is endorsing this.  It could’ve chosen any number of great books, but it took the one with the F-word.  The mass media endorses it, too.  Maybe parents need to follow suit, I don't know. 

I’m all for pushing the envelope and challenging people on their ethics, passions and behaviors – but when it comes to kids, my kids, I thought some things were still off limits.  I guess not.  

What a fucking shame.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

3 comments:

  1. Well, okay...here is something my history teacher told parents when they complained about a book we were required to read. The book was "The Ugly American" and if you have read it, you know it contains the word'fuck'. His response to the complaint was this: "If they are reading he book, and know what the word means, they didn't learn it from the book. If they don't know what it means, I'm sure one of their friends will tell them. And furthermore, if you know what the word means, you learned it somewhere, other than the required book." I thought this summed it up pretty well.

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  2. Bryan; I disagree with the idea of children knowing the offensive, obscene, or 'blue' language. Don't get me wrong, in my younger years I sometimes said some of them--until I heard one of them come out of my son's mouth. At church last Wednesday evening, we had a discussion of words that were forbidden in one of the participants childhood home. He and his siblings could not say, "Gee," or "Gosh," or "Golly,"because they were shortened forms of God's name. This person brought up the present culturally used term "OMG" as not any different. I notice one of my favorite TV shows has use of milder vulgarities when the characters are working but not when the family is together.

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  3. If you were reading with him, that was the perfect opportunity to see his reaction. As Carole pointed out, this isn't probably the first time he's heard the word or maybe even said it.

    Many, many books identified as "Young Adult" will have themes and language that may be inappropriate for a preteen. They can be opportunities for conversation ... or they should be put on a higher shelf.

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