Hungry For Books

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

I have just started to read “The Hunger Games.” I’m curious to see what the hullabaloo is about.

My nine-year-old son wants to read the book, but after a lot of thought, I’ve decided against it.

I think he’s too young. I thought a lot about my decision. I did some research. I asked around. I talked to the librarian and to the woman who works in the children’s department at the bookstore. I Googled “Hunger Games age appropriate.” I read all the articles in the newspaper and I watched the trailer for the movie. And then I decided that my boy was too young to read this book.

It is not that he couldn’t read it. He’s an advanced reader and willing to lose himself in a good book for hours at a time. He could easily follow the story. But I’m not sure he will really get it. I’m not sure he’s ready to read about kids killing other kids. (Truthfully, I’m not sure I’m ready to read about it.)

When I was in second grade, I read “The Hobbit.” I was very impressed with myself and carried this fat tome around with a certain degree of pride. Later, in seventh grade, (at my father’s recommendation,) I read “The Magus” by John Fowles. I have very little memory of either book. I don’t think I really absorbed them or understood them and so some might argue that reading these books did me no harm. It might be said that simply carrying them around boosted my self-confidence and gave me the will to read other challenging books.

But what if I missed an opportunity to really connect my life to the ideas in these books? What if I’d read the Hobbit at twelve or thirteen? What if I’d waited to plumb the erotic, violent, obsessive weirdness of “The Magus” until I was in high school or college or at the very least until I’d gone through puberty?

When my son was four going on five, we showed him what I consider the “first three” Star Wars movies. He and all his friends in pre-school played at being Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. He got an X-wing Fighter for his birthday and a light saber for Christmas. Star Wars was all the rage until around first or second grade when it was suddenly “for babies.” Now that he’s nine going on ten, this well-told story of a boy torn between good and evil would come in really handy. Sadly, I let the excellent metaphor of the Force versus The Dark Side go to waste at a time when they didn’t really resonate with my boy.

I am not saying that our children shouldn’t read these books (or see these movies). I am simply saying, why rush it?

My boy is young for such a little bit of time; I want to let him be young. He’s reading Harry Potter, but he’s also cuddling up to me and asking to hear “Winnie the Pooh.” He is a pre-teen and a post-toddler all rolled up into one silly, weepy, petulant, nose-picking, joke-making ball. I’m taking it slow while we can. Because between now and the day he asks for the keys to my car, he has plenty of time to read “The Hunger Games.”


  1. says

    I so agree with you Tanya. I think kids read what they are interested in and a good children’s bookstore is the best place to find age appropriate books and support a local business. Library is also a great place to start but since there is a time limit I like to buy the books for my grandchildren. Phases come and go and he might pick up Star Wars again later in his life. Hunger Games can certainly wait.

  2. says

    My kids counselor (going because of my impending divorce) told me that my 10 year old was too young for it and she brought up a point that I didn’t even think about which was, do I want to explain WAR and what it entails to my child at this point . . . so no Hunger Games for her right now.

  3. says

    Personally, I’m all for challenging kids, and coming back to books/movies later on, but we’ve always been (possibly too) open with Kenny. I grew up with the idea that the “age appropriate” book was the one that kept the kid reading, and I grew up (mostly) normal(ish). Or at least not a psychopath. But that’s just my perspective. In the end, all we can do is what we think is best for our kids and try to support others’ decisions.

  4. says

    I think that you reading the book yourself is a wonderful way to gauge whether or not your would like your child to read it. Every kid is different, and I think most parents are a good judge of what their kids can and can’t handle. When my son wanted to read the Twilight series he was in 5th grade. I read all of the books first and allowed him to read the first three. I made him wait until the summer he turned 12 (going into 7th grade) to read the last book. I felt the sexual scenarios in it were too mature for a 5th grader. Well, at least for MY 5th grader. When I thought he was ready, I let him read the book. We have a responsibility to allow our kids to mature at their own pace. Brava to you for reading and deciding for yourself what works best for your child!!

  5. says

    I’m with you on this. My son Oliver hasn’t read them and says that he doesn’t want to — too dark. I tried to read the first one and I just couldn’t get into it. I, too, read The Hobbit when I was in second grade — still have my copy, actually — I do remember loving every page despite the fact that I probably didn’t have an inkling of its deeper meanings. I think what you’ve said about waiting is so important — it’s a bummer that all of these things are so aggressively marketed to our kids at such a young age, and they have so much accessibility, too, to everything.


  6. says

    Thanks all for your comments. This topic brings up so much conversation. I’ve been thinking a lot about this and discussing it with other parents and it’s been so interesting to hear all the different voices. It’s a pleasure to be in the company of such a thoughtful parents. There are some great books for elementary age kids that touch on many of the same themes as “The Hunger Games.” Off the top of my head: “The Gammage Cup,” “The Search for Delicious,” “The Mysterious Benedict Society,” “The Princess and the Goblins” Love, love, love to read and love, love, love that my kids love to read!

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