Hunger Games?

Posted by on Aug 9, 2012 in education, Parenting, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I have just finished reading the first  book of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and enjoyed every page.  I was reluctant to start as it is not the usual kind of book I like to read but I felt it very important to be ‘in the loop’ about this series as I am set to teach 4th Grade in September. The Hunger Games has been a hot topic this past academic year amongst teachers and parents – is this story appropriate for  a 9/10 year old?  Scholastic rates the book as grade 5.3 for ages 11-13.

I confess Peter, my 9 year old, read the book before I did. Yes, I broke the golden rule taught at teachers’ college and recommended to all parents – check out the video, picture book, website BEFORE you allow your child to have it. I mention this because, as you know, this blog is about honest parenting.  The situation here was an extended trip alone with my two rambunctious boys who I decided to take to Waterstone’s bookstore for some much needed calming down. Of course Peter immediately wanted something that he wasn’t sure he was allowed to have. Seeing as he had given me 10 minutes of shopping time in Whistles, I was feeling the need to compromise!  He loves to read and I have known him to pick up the newspaper and other books with adult content and put them down quickly if he is not comfortable.  Having said all that I had already talked to many parents and teachers who are like minded souls, heard their thoughts and was less alarmed about a book where the story involved “children killing each other”. I also read an article by Jinnie Spiegler ‘Should I let my 10 year old read the Hunger Games’.

As a teacher I have to follow school guidelines and tend to air on the side of caution. As a parent it is purely a personal choice and one of the many responsibilities we all take on.  Again, I think we should all make our own personal choice and not judge another parent for feeling differently.  As Jinnie Spiegler says in her article, which I highly recommend you read (as well as the book of course!), it is rare to find such a strong female protagonist and there are so many opportunities for important discussions with your child. The book  has a strong anti-war message and you are lead to experience the emotional and physical consequences of violence and oppression through the eyes of Katniss, the main character.  This article also talks about the dangers of banning your child from reading a book, we all know how alluring the forbidden can be, and gives excellent guidelines to help with deciding if a book is appropriate or not.

You may also have a child like mine who read The Hunger Games and many of the emotional issues that tugged on my heartstrings, went over his head.  As adults I feel we not only under estimate what our children are capable of processing but also how nature protects them by not developing a sense of empathy too young.  The question is what to expose them to and when. Yes, I want my children to be protected and carefree for as long as possible.  I want them to enjoy their childhood and maintain their innocence but at the same time I want them to understand the world we are in today and give them the chance to make choices, form opinions and set boundaries for themselves. I want to be there alongside them whether it be reading The Hunger Games, playing Minecraft or going on Facebook (not yet but soon I’m guessing!)  And if your child turns on that channel, opens that book or you catch them playing Grand Theft Auto – yes me again – it’s a learning opportunity, a teachable moment and a chance to have an honest conversation with your child.

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