This is a tough topic for me to approach, because as a children’s author and an advocate for #BoysWhoRead, I would like to believe that there are no books that should be off-limits for children to leave. All books have the power to expand our children’s minds and help them with their studies, their critical thinking, and their ability to empathize, but just as we filter what our children watch on television, it is important to many parents to make sure books are “age appropriate.”

But how do we go about doing this? Books aren’t categorized like movies into ratings from G-R, and most likely you don’t have the time to read every book your child brings home before they do to make sure it meets your standards for appropriate. And many times you won’t be able to spot all of the content in a book by a quick flip-through and reading of the back cover. That being said, here are some practical and helpful tips to help you filter what your children are reading, and how to decide what you should be filtering for:

Understand your child’s reading-level: This is a suggestion based on filtering by what your child will be able to understand. Part of helping kids fall in love with reading is providing them with stories that will challenge their reading skills, but not frustrate them to the point of putting the book down and never wanting to pick one up again. Children’s books are labeled by age ranges and reading-levels, which will help you determine whether or not a book is going to be the right reading-level for your child.

Take another look at those reading-level labels: Maybe your child is above their own reading level, I know my son John was when he was growing up, but if you want to filter for appropriateness, this is another tool for you to use. Typically the level of appropriateness correlates with the age range a book was intended for, so if your second grader wants to read a junior high level book, not only might it be too far above their reading level, it cold touch on subject matters they simply are not ready for.

Understand the difference between inappropriate and mature: Some books are risqué simply for the thrill—Fifty Shades of Grey, for example. Other books simply touch on mature themes, such as peer pressure, sexual abuse, etc. Risqué books aren’t necessary for your child to read before they are old enough to filter for themselves. Mature books should be allowed based on your judgment of your child’s maturity level. Some young children are ready to be exposed to tough subjects through literature. And the best part about letting your child read these kinds of books is that it opens the channel for you and your child to talk openly about these hard themes they will probably have to come to terms with at some point in their life.

Read Amazon/Goodreads reviews: You might not have time to read a whole book before you give it to your child, but reading reviews is quick and easy! If there is anything truly inappropriate or shocking, the reviews will most certainly call it out.

When it comes down to it, know that only you know what your child is and isn’t ready for. If you are truly bothered by a certain word, character, or theme in a book, you have the right as a parent to keep it on a higher bookshelf until your child is ready to make the decision of what to read on his/her own.

Are there any books you have kept your children from reading? Do you believe that filtering what kids read is wrong? Let me know in the comments!