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I know what you're thinking.

"Shelly, you magnificent beast, didn't you already write on the subject of Warriors and children in a blog a long time ago?"

Well, yes, I did, but the general responses I got for the section I wrote about why I take issue with kids reading the Warriors series has given me reason to write a new blog that'll explain my feelings on the subject a bit more in depth.

The main point being that I'm absolutely fine with kids reading about the subjects of death, birth, war, religion, and even gore.

Honestly, the only reason I don't like kids reading the Warriors series is because of the constantly repeated message that "love makes everything alright" even though this is an unbelievable lie that'll likely lead to kids eventually running off with their boyfriends or getting pregnant or something if adults don't talk to them about it.

But I'm not going to harp on that point again.

Right now I'm talking about why it's okay for kids to read about violence and whatnot.

And to do this, I've interviewed my Child Psychology professor, Dr. Macalister (I actually interviewed her a while ago for a paper I was writing on this subject, so this is in a broader context, not just having to do with Warriors but with books in general). The following is an account of exactly what she said.

Dr. Macalister on the subject of sex, violence, and adult themes in childrens' literature

"As an adult I have read graphic accounts of the violence in the Middle East which has deeply disturbed me. It brings tears to my eyes right now just to briefly remember written accounts I've read by mothers of things they witnessed people doing to their children. (Of course this is reality, not fiction, but graphic fictional descriptions I think can disturb me as well.) But I would not say I've been "harmed" by reading this. I might even argue that I might have *benefitted* from reading it. Children are different, of course, because of their developmental limitations and limited experience. They might be really disturbed or confused by literature containing these adult themes but whether they are "harmed" depends on a lot of factors. Violence, sex, drugs, etc are part of our world and children will find out about them*, which in-and-of itself is not "harmful" (plus, I would put sex in a separate category from violence and drugs because sex is a healthy part of life). Sexual and aggressive impulses are natural to our species and we experience them as children and all through life. It doesn't make sense to me to sweep them under the rug, deny to children they they exist, and refuse children forums for exploring and working through these topics. It also doesn't make sense to me to allow children access to media (here, we're talking about books) that overtly deal with these topics without any adult moderation. They don't have a framework for understanding them. But, as we saw in Piaget's theory, their minds will desperately try to create a framework out of them and apply them to their understanding of other information. So, it would be foolish of us to let them "figure it out" all on their own. We need to provide a context for those books and supplement with lots of other information and processing concerning sex and violence. (*that said, I cannot stress enough the important of a child's developmental level in choosing an appropriate level of material. We should be talking to kindergarteners about sex, drugs, and violence. But, at a kindergarten level!)"

At this point, I asked Dr. M what she'd do if her kids wanted to read such books.

"My kids are 8 and 5, so anytime they want to read anything I am absolutely thrilled. I've got lots of children's books about sex on a low bookshelf that I've read from to them from time to time and I'd love it if they read them themselves. But, OK, what if they wanted to read Laura Schlessinger? Or something about girls remaining pure and giving themselves to their husbands upon marriage? Or advocating a religious perspective that I don't believe in? Maybe a book on why evolution and global warming aren't real... There are definitely books I'd never want my kids to read. But censoring doesn't do it. It's like telling kids "don't have sex" or "don't do drugs" maybe threatening some consequence, and thinking you're done. The developmental psych research is full of evidence that that approach doesn't work -- AND that an authoritative parenting style produces the best outcomes. Authoritative parenting means setting limits, explaining why those limits are there, and being willing to negotiate. So, my approach would be, OK, you want to read this: let's talk about why you want to read it, what you think it's about, and my perspective on what it's about and some context on how this book fits into the big picture. Then, we both read the book and then we talk about it as well as the larger issues that it touches on, and some alternate perspectives. That's education. I want my kids to learn about violence, sex, and drugs. I want to help them make sense of material that's out there on these topics and learn to develop their own informed values."


Long Story Short

Death, blood, gore, violence, the act of giving birth, love, lust, war... all of these things are a part of life that should never be hidden from children. It's true, some kids cannot handle these themes and should not read these books, but that's no reason to keep the entire series from a certain age group. If only parents would take a more active role in their kids' lives these days and explain to them why the love message I hate so dearly isn't a message that should be taken to heart, I'd be absolutely thrilled to see a kid reading Warriors. As Dr. M pointed out, kids need to learn about things like this on their own level, and what better way to do so than with a series of books about cats (or rabbits, if you're more of a Watership Down kind of kid)?

So take it as you will. Save for the the "love makes everything alright" message, I'm happy with kids reading Warriors. It definitely beats the Twilight series and a lot of other media out there that kids are being exposed to.

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