I had lunch with a friend the other day, and as often happens when we get together, the conversation turned to books. She's in a book group with women from her neighborhood, and one woman happened to mention that her 12-year-old daughter had expressed a desire to read Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella, which her mother had recently read and enjoyed. I have not read that book, but I've heard it's clever and funny, and at some point I'd like to check it out.
The woman was concerned about the swear words that are in the book, so she decided that she would let her daughter read it, but only after she inked out all the bad words with a black marker.
What do you think of that? Is that a reasonable compromise?
I keep thinking about it. I have to say that while I understand the woman's desire to protect her daughter from crude, objectionable language, it seems that if the mother thinks she isn't old enough to handle the language, maybe she's not old enough for that book yet. I also have to laugh, thinking that if my mom had done that when I was twelve, I'd have run straight to the library to see exactly what all those blacked-out words were!
A discussion between this parent and child about unacceptable language and why the parent believes it is not a good idea for her daughter to use those words might be more productive than expurgating the text. The child may well be familiar with many or most of those words already - so instead of sidestepping this issue, confronting it together might enable the child to ask questions and get straight answers, not to mention establish some trust. If a child feels comfortable talking with her parents about things her family disapproves of, she might be more likely to come to them later with other difficult questions.
So anyway, I've been thinking about that for a while, and I'm wondering if anyone else is as startled to hear of this expurgation strategy as I was. Any thoughts on the matter?