Monday, June 20, 2011

Sunday Guest Post from The Literate Mother

Jennifer Hafen Stevenson is the mother of 4 young readers. She enjoys life in the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband and family where they love to ski, hike and roast marshmallows over a campfire. Books are one of her favorite pastimes, especially reading aloud with the family. Jennifer is the co-founder of

I was so happy to find Jennifer's website!   I have a voracious reader in my house that I have been unable to keep up with, and I have wondered about the content of some of the books he has brought home.  Her website has helped so much with that.  Here is her post:

Last month I was browsing for my next book to read and settled on Amazon’s Young Adult Editors’ Pick of the Month for May titled The Lucky Kind by Alyssa Sheinmel. I read an interview with the author on Amazon and also the reviews that were posted at the time. There was never any indication, either by the author or the reviewers, of the prolific language (swearing, profanity and over 20 F-words) or explicit sexual material (a very intimate sexual relationship between two 16-year-olds) contained in this Young Adult book. Although this was not an isolated incident for me, I continue to be surprised at the adult and explicit content marketed to our young readers.

As parents we are responsible for much of what our children experience in their young lives. We are often very vigilant about the movies our children watch and the video games they play, but when we go to the library or order a book from the book order, we are far less attentive to the content that will be presented to our children.

In the defense of parents, it is much more difficult to ascertain the content of a book. Movies and video games have ratings, even music CDs bear warning labels for explicit lyrics, but dust jackets and synopses rarely alert parents to any questionable content. Many parents try to pre-read their children’s books, but keeping a step ahead of young readers is often impossible for parents with limited reading time. Even scouring book review sites may not render useful content information because each reviewer has a different level of comfort with adult or offensive material aimed at young readers.

Over three years ago, a friend and I found ourselves in this exact situation. Unable to keep ahead of our young readers at home and frustrated we could not find the content information we were looking for online, we decided to start The Literate Mother.

The Literate Mother provides reliable content ratings for youth and young adult literature, focusing on books 4th – 12th grade. We feel it is important for parents, teachers, librarians and concerned adults to be informed about the subject matter children encounter in books. Every book posted on our site is personally read and objectively rated in four categories: language, violence, sexual content and adult themes. Each of these categories is given a rating between zero (no objectionable content) and five (an excessive or disturbing level of content). We then explain, with examples from the book, the reasons behind the rating, and add our personal opinion of the book. This information helps parents and concerned adults suggest or discourage certain books, discuss sensitive material or simply strike up a conversation with a child about the book he or she is reading. 

At The Literate Mother, it is our belief that there is so much age-appropriate, quality youth and young adult literature available, that our children need not waste their time on inappropriate or shoddy writing. We love books and agree with Mr. Thomas Jefferson that we cannot live without them. We would never want to discourage anyone from reading; on the contrary, it is our hope that with the information available on our website, parents will become more involved in the selection and discussion of literature in their homes. Whether you have a sensitive child you want to steer away from certain topics, a voracious reader you would like to guide toward more appropriate books, or just want to be informed on the subject matter to which your young reader is exposed, we hope you will find help at

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