Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Common Sense Ratings

Thanks to Stephanie at Pretty Sweet YA Book Reviews (With Cherries on Top) who wrote a blog entry about Barnes & Noble's announcement that it was going to add Common Sense Media's ratings of children's books, movies, games, and music to its web site.

Common Sense Media is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization "dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology." Their "Common Sense Beliefs" can be found with their Mission Statement.

Concerns about Common Sense Media's ratings being included on Barnes & Noble's site, according to a Publisher's Weekly article are that "they seemed to emphasize negative subjects like sex, violence, drinking, and drugs over subject matter."

My belief that parents should be well informed of what their children are reading is conflicting with the idea that a third party is being trusted to rate books for their children. The criteria used in rating are Social Behavior, Sex, Violence, Consumerism, Drugs, and Language. In Judy Blume's Are you there God? It's me, Margaret, Social Behaviour has been flagged "iffy" because some characters lie. It is flagged "iffy" under "Sex" for "mentions of Playboy, kissing, menstruation, bras, emerging sexuality," not any mention of sexual intercourse. This is Meg Cabot's take on the Blume rating.
Because taken out of context, the warning that Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret contains “Playboy, kissing, menstruation, bras, and emerging sexuality” makes this wonderful, beloved book about a sixth grader who does nothing racier than stuff her bra with cotton balls and worry about disappointing her family sound like it’s about…well, Playboy, kissing, menstruation, bras, and emerging sexuality!
There is also a very real danger that the section on "What Parents Need to Know" can be too subjective.

I was curious to see how Judy Blume's Forever was rated. I found a better balanced view of the book on Common Sense Media because they included "The Good Stuff" -- information on the message and role models in the book.

Enter the Banned Book Challenge. Choose a goal for the number of challenged or banned books you can read between now and June. Let us know about your goal on our form, so we can keep track. Not sure what to read? Check out our suggested reading and the many links on the right side bar.

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