How Bad Could It Be?


When I finally got around to reading Wicked (sort of a back story to The Wizard of Oz), I was surprised by the sexual content in the first few pages.  Surprised because I’d borrowed it from a 7th grader, and because I’d seen several students reading it in years past.

Another book  that surprised me was The Lovely Bones (also loaned me by a student).  I’d expected some gruesome parts, but there was a fair amount of sex in it, too.

Is this appropriate reading for 12-to-14-year-olds?  Some would argue that it’s no worse than what they see on TV or YouTube, but that’s not a strong argument, because if it’s inappropriate in one form, it’s inappropriate across the board.

It’s hard to predict how middle schoolers will respond to graphic content.  Even without seeing pictures, highly visual people will be unable to get certain images out of their minds after reading detailed descriptions.  Many students have told me of sleepless nights because they were kept awake thinking about scary or disturbing stuff.

Wise parents will keep in touch with what’s in books and movies being viewed by their young teens.  Previewing content before allowing a middle schooler to read/see it is a good idea.  Having a discussion after reading or viewing is a must, because if it’s sexual, a 12-year-old will wonder if such behavior is normal.

When I see books about vampire lovers and futuristic mass murderers in my classroom, I ask, “Do your parents know you’re reading this?”  The response I hear most often is, “They wouldn’t care.”

I hope that’s not true.  I hope most parents care enough to protect their middle schoolers until they’re old enough to handle inappropriate content in a mature and discerning manner.


  1. As a Music Professional, I might also encourage your readers to consider the Musical Theater that they allow their children to absorb. “Rent,” “Grease,” and “Sweet Charity” may seem fun and innocent but are not so, when carefully considered.

    More recently, “Spring Awakening” is incredibly popular, despite themes of sexuality “of all flavors.” E-mail me if you need the details, but for this forum, let us just say it asks more questions than parents will want to answer.

    And, I have to say — Les Miserables is not an appropriate show for any but the most mature teenager. The unsuspecting parent will find themselves squirming while they wonder how they will explain prostitution, rape, adultery and profuse profanity offered for a laugh.

  2. Oh, believe me I care. I tried to read, thereby preview the Twilight series for my daughter, but before I was 50 pages into it, she had finished the 2nd and well into the third. I tried to get Amazon to limit her list of available downloads of books, but they have no censors on books yet. Many of the books or censors out there do not screen as Christian parents would. If they borrow a book from a friend, that’s another problem. -Caring parent.

    Connected by DROID on Verizon Wireless

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