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Let’s Talk Bookish – Should Books Have Content Ratings?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where they discuss certain topics, share their opinions, and spread the love by visiting each others’ posts.

JULY 9: SHOULD BOOKS HAVE CONTENT RATINGS? (DANI)

Prompts: Movies, television, video games and most other forms of media have content ratings…but not books. Why do you think it is that books have no rating system to determine what is and isn’t appropriate? Should there be books that are kept out of the hands of children? Is it the responsibility of parents or should there be a standard book rating system to deem what’s appropriate? 

Welcome to another week of LTB, everyone! This week’s topic is suggested by one of our hosts, Dani! It’s actually an interesting topic that I feel like I haven’t thought about myself, which is super interesting. Without further ado, let’s delve in.

I actually have no idea why books don’t have any ratings. Perhaps there’s no governing body to determine and enforce these ratings? Also, I am assuming many more books are published than movies that are produced and rated (or maybe I’m wrong?), so perhaps it’s just not feasible to have it set up to be rated. Strange though, because I feel like books have a huge influence on young children and teenagers, and of course adults as well. Thinking about it now, I suppose books should also have a rating just to give people a general idea of what might be coming in the book.

I always see people asking in comments if the book is appropriate for x age group (e.g. eighth-graders, young children, etc.), which at the time struck me as a strange thing to ask. But since there isn’t any sort of rating system, I guess I shouldn’t be at all surprised that these questions must be asked, because without having read the book there’d be no way to tell if the book may not be appropriate for the reader.

There are certainly books that should be kept out of the hands of children, likely books with very explicit content or overly dark content. I never really encountered such books when I was younger, but perhaps that was just purely luck. Although I must admit that when I first encountered romance novels I was surprised at what I found in the books. I have never considered what would be different if any of these books had ratings. Would I still have picked up the book? I don’t know.

I suppose it would have been nice to have a standard book rating system to deem what is appropriate, and the specific choice left to the discretion of parents. Obviously even if there are stringent rating systems, it is up to the reader to disregard such ratings. I don’t think that a rating system would really serve to prevent people from reading something. But I do think that it could possibly serve as a good warning in case.

Having books in certain sections of the store under “romance” or “horror” does help a little bit. But in the section of “fiction” or “fantasy”, there is honestly such a wide range in what may or may not appear in the book. I wonder if there’s any way of standardizing some sort of rating so that people aren’t caught by surprise.

What do you all think? Would book ratings just a complete waste of time? I feel like movie rating are generally disregarded anyway, it seems to be more of a general guideline than anything else. Are there any obvious solutions that I’m just oblivious to? Let me know in the comments below!


6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish – Should Books Have Content Ratings?”

  1. Anytime a discussion about censorship comes about, I tend to cringe. I agree, that there are a lot of books out there that children should not read, but whenever we talk about a rating system, I wonder who does the rating? Over the years, there have been many attempts at censorship, especially in school libraries, and I don’t like the idea of “someone” telling me what I can and can’t read. And I wonder if a rating system will only make some books more “attractive” to younger readers? Sort of like sneaking into an R-rated film. But, as a parent, it would have been nice to know the content of a book before allowing my children to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I don’t like the idea of anyone deciding for me what I can and can’t read. But it might be nice to get an idea of what might be in the book – but these kind of systems are often hard to get right.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Originally I thought it was a good idea to help parents, or those buying books for children, more aware of story suitability. However I wouldn’t want to dictate because some readers are ready for more adult content sooner than others and I agree that many would ignore them. I also wouldn’t want to see them used to discriminate against content such as LGBTQ+ or diverse characters, so now I’m really not sure what would be best!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I worry about that too! I don’t want it if it’s just going to be a discrimination tactic. I think instead of a rating restriction, maybe just some sort of small warning? Like if there’s explicit content or something maybe it can have some sort of label for that? But not an age-restriction, just warning of mature language, etc. I think that could possibly be useful.

      Like

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