As a lifetime lover of books and a children’s book author, I can attest to the fact that I am a huge advocate for getting children to pick up books instead of iPhones. Whether it’s a book about a wizard, a kid navigating the schoolyard, or a giant red crocodile taking kids on late night adventures, I say any book that grabs your child’s attention is a book they should be allowed to read!

But I don’t want to neglect that publishers put reading levels on books for a reason—sometimes a book’s content and themes seem to be above our child’s head, or darker than what we really want them exposed to while they are so young. Which leads me to wonder, should we censor our children’s reading material? And if we do, what are the right parameters around doing so? 

Here are a few of my tips to make sure we are doing our best as parents to make reading as enjoyable as possible for our children!

Understand your own child’s maturity. If they pick out a book that you think might be for someone older than they are, ask them what drew them to this specific book. You might discover that they are actually mature enough and ready to learn about and engage with material that is above what a “typical” person their age would be ready for.

Read controversial books alongside your child. Maybe they’re too old for reading out loud time, but if you both agree to read two chapters before bed each night, it will open up a conversation about the material. That way, you’ll be aware of what they’re reading, when they’re coming to controversial material, and you will get to have a conversation about it in real time.

Know your child’s triggers. If you’re worried about a book that might ultimately scare your child, try to get an understanding of what their fears are. For instance, if they have a recurring nightmare about clowns, letting them read something about a scary clown might not be the best idea. You don’t need to hold back every dark book from them, just be cautious with the ones that could trigger their specific traumas.

Trust your children. Reading is often a wonderful way to be exposed to things we might never experience in our lives, or prepare us for something we just haven’t experienced yet. Don’t be afraid to give them a book about death, or about the effects of bullying, or about political issues. A lot of children’s and YA books address these things now in order to equip our children with the maturity, knowledge, and empathy they’ll need to deal with them in real life. Trust that your children are capable of handling hard things, and be willing to talk with them about it every step of the way.

What are your thoughts on censoring your child’s reading material? Let me know in the comments!