Cleared for Content?

Is Harry Potter too scary for your second grader?  Is Twilight appropriate for your 4th grader?  When questions like this come up, it is sometimes difficult to know the answer unless you plunk yourself down and start reading the book in question yourself.  Add that to the list of to do items you are already trying to plug through in a day, and you might find yourself either prohibiting or approving books based on too little information.

Enter Storysnoops.  One of the Snoops (Eden) started her children's literature blogging adventure because her then 4th grade girl was "reading up" and based on a friend's advice, allowed her daughter to read Twilight because according to her friend, nothing really happens in book one.  Like so many young (and dare I say 30- and 40-year old) Twilight readers, Eden's young daughter was quickly swept away into world of Forks and continued to read her way through all four books in the series.  Unfortunately and much to Eden's dismay, her daughter had finished book four before her friend circled back to say that while the characters didn't even kiss in book one, by book four, Bella was pregnant. Yikes!

As with a lot of media, books are best previewed by parents, but unlike movies and video games, books don't come with ratings.  It remains the case that some books are just not appropriate for kids at certain ages, and as parents and teachers, we need tools for assessing whether or not we are ready for our children to read certain books.  For children's literature, especially literature written for the 8 to 12 year old set, Storysnoops is a fantastic resource.

The site allows you to search for books by title, author, or keyword (like friendship or bullying) and each review provides you with a parent's perspective about the appropriateness of each book's content and subject matter.  Take for example, the Snoops' review of Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce.  In it, the Snoops are careful to point out that

Nate is not always the best role model -- he often goofs off in class, and gets in trouble on a somewhat regular basis. Language is mild and mostly silly (jerk, idiot, butt naked, loser, bonehead) and mild bullying takes place. 
While the issues of Nate's behavior and language pale in comparison to a pregnant Bella, the Snoops' review empowers parents with the information they need to decide if they want to encourage or discourage the reading of that particular book.  On the positive side, the Snoops also note that "Nate learns a valuable lesson about combining the strengths and weaknesses with a partner for the greater good," and thus, again, parents are equipped to decide if the book's good points outweigh the bad and if it should be a go- or no-go-book for their child.  The Snoops' reviews also have the added benefit of pointing out the issues raised by each book, which can serve as a great way for parents to start conversations and connect with their children about books they are reading.  

One of the best features that Storysnoops offers is the ability to search for books by age group (Tweens 9-12 and Teens 13-18), by category (like Books for Boys Who are Reluctant Readers and Tweens Reading Up) and by topic (like self-confidencesportsmanshipalienshonesty, slavery, tolerance, and MUCH more).

The functionality of the site and the depth of the Snoops' coverage makes Storysnoops a parents' must-have-tool for guiding young readers.  Whether you use it to find the next good book for your child or to help you navigate the "appropriate content" waters of tween reading (without having to dive in yourself), Storysnoops is a great site to bookmark and blog to follow.

Are you a Story Snoop too?  What books would you recommend for LP readers and which ones would you caution other parents about?  Let us know! 

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