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.”