Media has changed significantly and children are exposed to more graphic and mature visuals, language, and subject matter. It’s important to be aware of these changes and help children navigate their world, always encouraging curiosity and a love for reading while being cognizant of topics that may cause confusion, fear, or stress.
Children’s books are categorized into age groups: Board books (0-2), picture books (2-6), early readers and chapter books (6-9), middle grade (8-12), and young adult (13-19). Each category differs in reading difficulty, length, sophistication of vocabulary and, most importantly, the content or subject matter.
“Content is more frightening and gory than ever, and the bar keeps getting set higher and higher,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. “When you’re young, your impressions of the world are still being formed — and how you think about relationships can be affected by what you read,” says Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician and medical communications editor at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Reading choice is an important part of building a reading life. How a child engages with print, though, is part of their overall health development. Pediatricians and educators have seen through observation and research that discussion and monitoring of reading material is just as important as selecting healthy food choices.
So when your young child wants you to read a book to them like Hunger Games, you get to decide how to navigate this. If you choose to read the book with your child and discuss mature language or content in a kid-friendly manner, great. If you choose to wait until they’re older, the books will always be there. Being intentional and thoughtful about how we support our child’s literacy development is most important of all.