In the perfect world that exists only in my mind, there would be no books that had questionable content. I wouldn't need to worry that my children's eyes would happen upon inappropriate language nor that they would need to step away from an exciting story because of graphic descriptions that would remain in their minds or other content we have deemed "off limits."
In a perfect world...
But, this isn't a perfect world and we have personally encountered these problems with content in children's books in the past. I would love to be able to preview all the literature my voracious readers would like to consume. Alas, I haven't the time.
So, when my 10 year-old comes to me with a book lent to him from a friend that he really really really wants to read, what do I do?
There are, of course, always options. I could put my foot down and say, "Absolutely no way are you reading anything not published by a Christian publishing company (or similar restriction). The end." But, that wouldn't teach him to make his own judgements.
I could say, "I'll preview it and let you know." This is a good option except that I don't have time to sit and read each 400 page book my son asks me about. I predict he would eventually lose faith in this process and cease to seek my approval - which I don't want to lose.
In our house I have settled for discussion + reading reviews on the book. First, we have plenty of open and honest discussions about what is appropriate to read and what is not. We talk about how protecting our heart is more important than getting to the end of a story that has inappropriate content. We are constantly training our kids to measure what they read up against our values and beliefs. And, we always try to have discussions about what they are reading and delve into what ideas and concepts they're gaining from the literature. Discussion...it's important. [I'll get off my soap box now.]
As far as reading reviews is concerned, there are plenty of places to go to get that information. The site I've found most helpful is Common Sense Media's book review section. Here you can look up a book by its title and see what Common Sense Media has to say about the book including: the appropriate age for reading the book, good elements, what to be aware of, topics for discussion, and a basic summary of the book. Then, others who have read the book, kids and parents alike, list their own short review. This is the section where you may see where a parent saw an issue with some content or where other kids the same age either loved it or didn't care for it.
While reading is good, not everything that is written, is good to read. And so we must be diligent about helping our kids make good decisions about reading material.