Let’s Talk Bookish – 9th July – Should books have content ratings?

Let’s Talk Bookish weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. I love taking part in this meme as it gets me thinking about different aspects of reading and literature. Today’s prompt is really interesting to boot!

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? 

When I first heard of content warnings, I must admit, I was a bit sceptical. I am fortunate that I don’t have many triggers so it wasn’t a topic I’d ever thought about before. I worried that content warnings would act as spoilers for the plot. However, the more I’ve seen content warnings, the more I’ve realised that they are actually quite vague. Having a content warning of “self harm” or “animal cruelty” don’t tell us what happens in the plot. You don’t know if they are a major plot point or referenced in passing. Yet they do help people who find these topics challenging to avoid the book to protect their wellbeing.

It’s true that we rate films and TV shows based on the intended audience. Books are classified into Childrens, MG, YA, NA and adult but this doesn’t necessary help with content warnings. It helps give an idea of the age suitability but not the content. Before so many post-watershed shows, they mention if there is bad language, violence, sex references/scenes. But this doesn’t happen in books. Why is this?

I think that images seem to be more impactful to many people. Nowadays, I think we consume more picture media than literature. I also think that the written word is more open to interpretation in the imagining of the events than seeing it in pictures. Also, if there is something in a book which makes me feel uneasy, I can skim read it; but that’s just like closing my eyes watching a film. Maybe it is more easy to stumble upon “inappropriate” or triggering media outside of literature?

I do believe that parents and carers should monitor what their children consume in terms of books, as well as film, TV and internet content. I know that this can be easier said than done, but it’s my opinion that parenting is about setting boundaries (although children will inevitably push them).

Could books have an age rating on them? Potentially. But I think that we also have to be aware that many people read outside of their own age range. Furthermore, some children in particular are far more mature than others and can cope with more mature themes.

As for including content warnings, I am unsure what the best way to go about this is. The Storygraph and wikis like book trigger warnings are fantastic for people who want to look up content warnings, but they are subjective and rely on people volunteering this information. It is also impossible to be able to include every single content warning. I think we also have to take responsibility to understand what triggers us and be mature enough to say “I don’t think this will suit me” as I do think you can generally get a good idea of some of the issues from a blub. Then again, that takes an awful lot of research for a book that might just catch your eye one day. And, like I said, I don’t search out trigger warnings so I think it is better to hear from those who do need them to protect themselves before making a full judgement. I can only speak for my experience.

To go some way to addressing the conundrum, I wonder if having a page at the end of the book detailing warnings, along with author info, would be a good compromise for people who want to look at the warnings, and for those who are more reticent to the idea.

What are your thoughts in this topic? I think that it can be elicit some strong reactions from many people. I’d love to hear from you!

One thought on “Let’s Talk Bookish – 9th July – Should books have content ratings?

  1. “I do believe that parents and carers should monitor what their children consume in terms of books, as well as film, TV and internet content. I know that this can be easier said than done, but it’s my opinion that parenting is about setting boundaries” I definitely think this is important. It’s HARD but parenting is hard. You have to protect your children.

    Liked by 1 person

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