Let’s Talk Bookish: Should books have content ratings?

Hello!! I’ve been traveling with my family a little bit, (covid safe of course), but I’m back home now, which I’m really happy about. I haven’t posted at all this week, but I’m really excited to write about this topic!! This week’s LTB topic is should books have content ratings (suggested by Dani), and I have a lot to say on this one!

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly discussion post created by Rukky @ Eternity Books and is hosted by Rukky and Dani @ A Literary Lion! For this week’s topic, I’m going to talk about content ratings for books.

Movies, television, video games and most other forms of media have content ratings…but not books. Why do you think it is that books have no rating system to determine what is and isn’t appropriate?

I honestly don’t know, because it doesn’t make very much sense. When looking at a movie, or show, it’s easy to see the rating. It’s very helpful, especially if you’re watching something with younger kids, and it can also be a good way to measure what you personally are up for watching. Video games have this, and it seems all other types of media have some sort of rating system. Even music, with individual songs will be marked as explicit.

But with books, there is nothing like this, and I think that yeah, there really should be some sort of rating system for books. Books are categorized most often into three categories; children’s, young adult, and adult. New adult is sometimes used, although less often.

But those three labels are used very loosely; children’s and young adult books are often combined, especially in bookstores, and certain books are infamously known to truly be adult, despite them being marketed as YA. (yes, I’m talking about A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J Maas. It seems pretty widely known that the content is more adult, and should really be put in the new adult category, however booksellers and librarians continue to put it in the young adult sections, where younger readers are more likely to stumble across it.


Should there be books that are kept out of the hands of children?

Without rating systems it is easy to stumble across books you’re not ready for, but I’ve found that it’s not to hard to self sensor, especially in terms of violence. When I was younger, I never accidentally

But in general, I think that there are. I mean, eight year olds shouldn’t be reading books with more sexual content, but with the current system we have for categorizing books, it’s easy for younger kids to read any sort of book. Most bookstores I’ve been in have one section for both young adult and middle-grade books. Books like Percy Jackson can be right next to books like Six of Crows; two amazing books at completely different levels. Six of Crows is much more intense of a book, and is directed at an older audience, while Percy Jackson is aimed at younger readers.

So yeah, there are books that should be kept out of the hands of children, and I think for the most part the reasons are pretty self explanatory. Younger kids shouldn’t be reading books with more sex scenes and graphic violence, and it’s up to the way that books are divided and marketed to direct books to the right audiences.

However, I wouldn’t want a rating system to turn into a way to ban books, or to keep certain books away from kids, and that could easily happen. For example, books with LGBTQ+ characters and couples might be rated higher than a book with no queer representation, and it could be kept away from kids because of that.

I wouldn’t want to risk that happening, because it’s already so hard for younger kids and teens to get access to books with LGBTQ rep. When we start giving a lot of people the power to keep books out of the hands of children, then the system can quickly become very unfair.

Is it the responsibility of parents or should there be a standard book rating system to deem what’s appropriate?

I don’t think that it is the responsibility of parents to screen every single book their kids read. My parents never have, and you can’t expect parents to read through every book their kids want to read to make sure it’s completely appropriate.

It would be so easy for publishers or editors to assign a book a rating, and have that be part of the book; either on the back cover, or inside on one of the first pages. That would make things easier for so many people, and I really think that it would be so beneficial.

But having such an easy system could easily go wrong, and I think that having a content warning system for books could end very badly.

My solution for this would be to just add content warnings at the beginning of every book. Having a list of the content warnings for a book, in the book, would accomplish so much more, in my opinion. That way, parents and kids, and readers in general, could look to see what was in the book they wanted to read, and easily be able to understand the content of the book.


Wrapping this up…

A content rating could potentially be good, but I think could easily become very biased and unfair. Having publishers and authors put content warnings for each book at the front of the book would be a better solution in my opinion, and would be beneficial to everyone.

It was really interesting to write about this topic, and I hope that it was interesting for you to read it!! I would love to hear you thoughts on this topic in the comments!!

Do you think that books should have content ratings like movies do? Why do you think books don’t already have a system for that? Chat with me in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: Should books have content ratings?

    1. Yeah, definitely. I also think that a lot of the time publishers slap on age ratings like 12-18, which is a huge age range, and it’s hard to know where the book really is; is it good for 12 year olds, or is it better for 18 year olds?

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