Take the 2-minute tour ×
Parenting Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for parents, grandparents, nannies and others with a parenting role. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The school has assigned The Hunger Games as a literature reading assignment for my 11 year old. I read the books and enjoyed the ride, but feel the brutality is too much for this age group, in this package. The book is better suited to at least the middle-school classroom. While some eleven year old children may be able to handle this book, the RL for comprehension is not set to the age of the class to which the book is being assigned. The age listed as the age the book is aimed at is age 13+. A typical class of 11 year olds will have children in it that can comprehend at 13, but it will also have just as many kids who can only comprehend a book written at an RL of 9.

Let me clarify: I have no problem with violence as a theme in general and do not wish to hide my child from the concept/theme in literature, but I do have a problem with the brutality in combination with a book that is written for older kids being presented in a classroom setting.

I find this book inappropriate for this age group and feel it was really chosen for a "cool factor" rather than because it is appropriate and a well-thought out choice. The plan is for the kids to read the book and then watch the movie at the end of the unit in "celebration" of completing the unit.

My son didn't ask to read the book, it was assigned. He is already an avid reader and enjoys reading so engaging him with a book that has a lot of violence, and is above his reading level and he hasn't had an interest in simply because it is "cool" does not interest him or me. Now that it was assigned, he doesn't want to be singled out and I don't want to embarrass him either so what do I do about it?

I would have just added this as a comment, but there are already so many, I thought I'd add it here instead. This link will take the reader to a closely associated question about dealing with the same issue but where death is the concern within the book as opposed to violence.

I'd like to point out that some of the over-arching themes in the book are complex themes and much more "young adult" as well as political in nature than your average 11 year old will be prepared for. There is a big difference in maturity between 11 and even 13.

share|improve this question
2  
Cut the pages out which depict violence? The rest of the story is still available. Ask the teacher not to to test on violence. –  Chloe Nov 20 '13 at 16:55
6  
I'm appalled by this. 11 years is too young to read that book by at least 3-4 years. –  JSBձոգչ Nov 20 '13 at 19:31
10  
@JSBձոգչ Depends on the kid. The Hunger Games was the level I read at around age 10, and the content wouldn't have been a big deal compared to some of the other books I read. –  Izkata Nov 20 '13 at 20:05
1  
there's no real answer to this. it depends on all sorts of factors that are mostly personal to the parent. –  DA01 Nov 20 '13 at 20:28
1  
I wouldn't worry about the violence. Often adults don't really understand how kids react to unreal violence. In contrast to major belief, the kids are actually quite good at differentiating the fantasy world and the real world. Ever heard of anyone getting violent playing Mortal Kombat at the age of 10? What does make a child violent and have many sorts of bad effects on the kid is real in-home violence, not violence in books or video games. –  Shahbaz Nov 22 '13 at 11:23

6 Answers 6

Since you're not thrilled about the depiction of violence in the book, but are reluctant to have your child singled out as different, maybe you could read it with him and discuss the violence and brutality. Use this as a teaching situation, where you can listen to his interpretation of the violent themes in the book and add in your own two cents.

share|improve this answer
10  
This is great advice. I'd still talk to the teacher (as suggested by @Chloe) and maybe even other parents as you may not be the only one who feels this way. –  blurfus Nov 20 '13 at 18:04
    
Exactly what my mom did (with other books). –  Izkata Nov 20 '13 at 20:07
    
As a chatterer, I'm always up for talking with the kids. :> Even if (since mine are Kindergarten and preschool still) the answers you get are rather left-field. –  Valkyrie Nov 21 '13 at 12:12

You might consider that children are affected by violence differently than adults, especially violence in books. Their imagination isn't as horrible as ours. A lot of what makes the book impactful to adults will go right over a child's head, due to their inexperience and lack of maturity.

If you've ever reread a book as an adult that you first read as a child, you'll know what I mean. 1984 and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn come to mind as books I read as a child that hit me much harder as an adult. The Hobbit is a good example of a book that went the other way for me. As I child, I found it terrifying. As an adult, it is light-hearted.

If you still feel it isn't appropriate, I would take this opportunity to teach that different isn't bad. This isn't the last time he will have to defy the crowd in order to make a better personal choice. It doesn't have to be a negative thing. Let him choose an appropriate replacement. My parents had me do that once or twice in high school. I don't remember feeling left out as much as the other kids being somewhat jealous that I got to read something different. Kids like the idea of reading a book above their maturity level, but actually doing it is not that pleasant.

share|improve this answer
2  
I don't think it's that the violence goes over their heads so much as they don't view the story as real in the same way adults tend to. It's akin to reading fairy tales, which work on the psyche in a symbolic sort of way. –  MJ6 Nov 21 '13 at 1:10
2  
@MaryJoFinch, I get that, but with these books it isnt just the violence that is likely to go over many kid's heads. It is a brutal and bloody story - with messages about that brutality - the messages are likely to go over kids heads too - at this age and if that is the case, what is the point? –  balanced mama Nov 21 '13 at 13:06

(Warning: Spoilers)

Whereas the Hunger Games is a violent book, it is probably one of the few that shows the consequences of that violence. The death of Rue, the moral dilemma of kill-or-be-killed and the sacrifice of Katniss taking her sister's place all offer something for a child to learn. Even the death of foxface (I forget the character's name) was a presented as tragedy. Many of the district 1 characters show good people caught in an "evil" society.

My daughter read this book when she was eleven and enjoyed it. I read it after her. I'd rather she read this book that watched most of the rubbish on television these days.

So, I would consider this as an opportunity to open (continue) a dialogue with your child as to the nature and impact of violence (as suggested by Valkyrie). I think the book is a reasonable starting point.

share|improve this answer

I remember reading Lord of the Rings when I was 11. It opened my eyes to a whole world of wonderful literature that was genuinely interesting. Books with war and violence evoke strong emotions.

While I agree that not every child is necessarily ready for dealing with those emotions at that age, I would say that it's up to parents and teachers to support their children and address these emotions, rather than simply procrastinate. Doing so could cause the child to fall behind their peers. Additionally, whether or not the child reads the book, they will be discussing the book with their peers and finding out what happens anyway.

With all that said, you know your child better than I do, and he knows himself better than either of us. Ask him how he feels. If he feels that he's ready to read and interpret books that evoke strong emotions, let him.

share|improve this answer
    
I would actually read LotR with an 11 year old. I would not read Hunger Games with one. At least not your average 11 year old. –  balanced mama Nov 23 '13 at 15:51
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Obviously, the first decision is to determine if the individual child is ready or not for the book in any one form of reading it - alone, with a teacher and class, and/or with a parent. That really is a personal and individual decision as the answer for any given child will depend upon that child's particular sensitivities, reading abilities and moral awareness whether the inappropriateness is about violence, sex or some other topic of concern is really irrelevant except on that personal level. One parent might make opposite decisions about the same book with two different siblings because of the individual child's abilities and personality.

If the Parent Decides to Allow The Reading

  • Be upfront with your concerns with your child so he knows where you stand and also find out what the child in question thinks. Also let your child know that if he starts to think it is too much for him at any point he can bow out of reading and you will stand behind that decision. Don't expect a kid in this position to make that decision - most won't, but once in awhile, wonders do occur.

  • I agree with Valkyrie that one of the best ways to handle this is to read along with the child in question. If there is an older sibling, one might even choose to make it a family reading and enlist the older sibling in discussions about the book as well.

  • It might help to find the author's reading guide. Most Children's and YA fiction that winds up being used in the classroom has a guide from the publishers with discussion questions available online for printing or by ordering through the publishers. You can also go online to sites such as Addlit.org or enotes.com. You wouldn't be getting these to have your kid do extra homework on it, but to help you make sure you are as prepared with possible discussions in your own home, and likely discussion questions the teacher might assign.

If the Parent Decides to Look for an Alternative

  • Be very clear with your child as to why you are making your decision. Let him know he can blame you when his friends start asking questions on the matter and that won't bother you at all. Don't disallow the reading altogether - ever. Let your child know, it is only for now, at some point reading the book or not will be up to him, it just isn't time yet. Give some idea about approximately how far away that time is.

  • Find out what the learning objectives the teacher is approaching with the book are so you can find an alternative book through which similar learning objectives can be addressed.

  • When you bring your concerns to the teacher/school, do so gently, non-critically and un-emotionally. Make your concerns about your son and your family dynamics, not about the school. When parents approach a school talking about a decision being wrong across the board, they are creating their own resistance, but in most cases, if you approach the school stating why something doesn't work for your child in particular, followed by an alternative option or two you think would work on your end if it works for them, the school will oblige and work with you on it.

  • Don't drum up drama finding out how many parents feel as you do about it. This approach, while making you feel supported, often stirs up a fight rather than working toward a solution. It also leaves your son at risk of being that much more embarassed when the book gets read in the class anyway. If you know of a friend or two that have similar feelings bring them in as a part of the solution by saying, "I know of at least two other families that would be willing to have their children read another book with my son instead so maybe the whole class could be offered a choice between two books so no one child is singled out and to offer an option for the kids of parents that share my concerns (or something to that effect).

share|improve this answer

Violence is unfortunately a factor of life. It does no good to hide your child from life. I am a member of both Amnesty International and the Campaign against the arms trade (CAAT). My daughter (now 13) has been on a number of demonstrations with me and has done since she was 8.

A much better approach is to accept the reality of life but read the book with your son. You can then discuss the issues. This will give you an excellent opportunity to educate him in the realities of life and help him grow into the best he can be.

share|improve this answer
    
No, I've seen the films but I have family that died in Auschwitz. The conditions in some parts of the world today are not much better. –  Warren Hill Nov 20 '13 at 21:32
2  
My grandpa flew a bomber in WWII and hopefully killed some Nazis. That said, maybe the parent here could talk to the teacher and ask them why this series and why with 11 year olds? That would at least be an interesting conversation. When something bothers me like this I ask people to explain while trying not to give any hints as to how I feel about it in advance. –  Mark Allen Nov 20 '13 at 21:44
    
@WarrenHill welcome to the site, interesting perspective +1 –  user4784 Nov 20 '13 at 23:05
1  
@WarrenHill While I agree that violence is a factor of life, that doesn't mean this particular book is an appropriate way to bring about discussions about violence with every kid. As I have stated, my concern isn't about the violence itself, but the sophistication level of the reading for this particular age level in combination with themes of violence. –  balanced mama Nov 21 '13 at 0:01
1  
Violence is a factor of life, but the question was not about life, it was about a book. :) Reading with the child is a good idea though. –  Bennett McElwee Nov 21 '13 at 22:08

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.