Monday, she came in the door with, "Mom, I've got a paper you need to sign..." It was titled, "Secondary Reading List Permission Form" (I won't go on the tangents of why this shouldn't be necessary, the problems with Common Core standards, or should we just go back to homeschooling - all of which I have strong opinions about, but that's not the point here.) I was somewhat expecting and hoping for this paper, because as a writer, I want know that my daughter is reading quality literature - however I didn't realize the time involvement it would require from me to do the necessary research.
The form gave two signing options 1. Sure, let her read whatever the teacher assigns or 2. Ok, let her read what the teacher assigns, with the EXCEPTION of... (my paraphrase of the formal language) - not a problem, I can weed out a few inappropriate books, right? However the list has 370 books on it!
I spent the next three days reading reviews of "Young Adult" literature (because I haven't heard of most of them). It was a lot of work, but worth it for the sake of my daughter and hopefully all my research will be helpful to you as well.
A Couple of Disclaimers about this list:
1. My list of books was based on 4 criteria:
(S) Explicit Sexual References/Scenes;
(V) Extreme Violence, not related to historical events;
(L) Excessive Foul Language;
(T) Very Mature Themes
If a book contained one or more of these criteria, it was added to the list of books that I DO NOT give permission for my daughter to read in 7th Grade English class.
I had to limit my exclusions somehow or I'm sure I could have found something wrong with just about every book on the list.
2. I based my opinions on the book reviews I found on www.commonsensemedia.org and amazon.com - the first site gives unbiased ratings based on content plus parent reviews, on Amazon I read 1 star ratings, looking for any obvious objections that met my criteria.
3. My NOT APPROVED list is based on our School District's Suggested Reading List and what I feel MY fairly mature 12 year old daughter should be reading- I don't feel these books are appropriate at this time in her life.
The List (in no particular order):
- Kissing Tennessee by Kathi Appelt (S)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (T)
- Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (S)
- A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich by Alice Childress (T)
- The Adventures of Ulysses by Bernard Evslin (S)
- The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (V)
- Story Time by Edward Bloor (L)
- Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (T)
- Agnus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (S)
- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (L)
- Bless the Beast and the Children by Glendon Swarthout (L)
- Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas (SL)
- Blood Red Road by Moira Young (VL)
- Dragonwings by Laurence Yep (SLV)
- Child of the Owl by Laurence Yep (S)
- Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (TSV)
- Forged by Fire by Sharon Draper (SV)
- Gentlehands by M.E. Kerr (S)
- Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (T)
- Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (V)
- Bruiser by Neal Shusterman (SLV)
- Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher (TS)
- Deathwatch by Robb White (V)
- There is a serious lack of good literature for teens.
- Amazon reviews aren't necessarily thoughtful or constructive critiques.
- Most "Young Adult" literature is about the same 5 topics: paranormal, dystopia, the ravages of war, racial issues in America or sappy teen romance.
- I think books should come with ratings like TV and Movies - navigating appropriate books for teens would be much easier.
- The written word is powerful to shape young minds - as a parent I must be extremely cautious about what I allow my children to be exposed to.
- I praise God for the wisdom and discernment that He has given me on this task and pray that He will be honored by the decisions I make for my family.