In another shocking acknowledgement that after puberty, teenagers start thinking about sex, the big news of the day comes in the form of a warning for parents. Books written for teens often include sex. Or at the very least "passionate kissing." And researchers at Brigham Young University have published a study on this because apparently there's a whole sector of parents out there who didn't know this.
OK, news flash, parents? Teen books are written for teens. If your teen is reading it, doesn't it stand to reason that the content would relate to what they're thinking about? They have grown out of Amelia Bedelia and moved on to Hunger Games and Vampire Academy in body, not just mind.
Oh, I'll admit it's uncomfortable to think of my kid reading about sex in that "OMG, she's my baby" sort of way. But the sort of fearmongering that's followed this study leaves me shuddering to think what most parents really think of their kids' decision to read or study ... well, anything. Take this over-the-top warning from Jane Brown, a professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of North Carolina:
Teen readers are likely to be very involved or engaged or what we call 'transported' by the narrative ... we would expect that a teen reader who is transported by the narrative would be more likely to engage in the kind of behavior she is reading about.
Note that this "expert" works in journalism, not in child development.
I'd challenge that reading, at any age, is supposed to be about being transported. When a friend who is working on his first novel threw up a Facebook status earlier this week asking buddies to weigh in on what they're looking for most in a fictional tale, the answers that came in from the adults all ranged around a need to relate to the characters, to be pulled into the storyline, to be stretched beyond our reality in the way that only fiction can.
That's why we read. Because we don't live books. They don't turn us into vampires. They don't set us up in a TV-show world where we're killing one another. They DO let us explore an alternate universe, usually one that fascinates us.
That's what makes teen books so vital. Because they're safe ways for our kids to go beyond their own lives and examine other topics. Sex, kissing, they're on kids' minds. We can't escape that.
But what better way for them to encounter sexual themes than in a book, where they can neither get pregnant nor encounter an STD?
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