Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Not Yes/No, but Now/Later

There's a huge to do going on right now in the media about the movie The Hunger Games, which is set to be released in the theaters in just a few days.  This afternoon a friend of mine were discussing the books.  She asked me if I was the person who'd sent an email to our homeschool group blasting the books.  I said, no, but that I am concerned about young children reading them.  She, as a long time homeschooler and woman I deeply respect, felt they would be appropriate for teenagers, but not for younger children.  She loved the books and was drawn in.  She couldn't escape them.  

Her comments reminded me of how many of us felt about the Harry Potter series (which I still need to write about when I get a chance).  The books were engaging and imaginative, yet often scary and frightening.  

Over our vacation two weeks ago, I read a book by Tony Reinke titled Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books.  He goes into great detail about the value of reading secular books and why we should read them, but in another section of his book he introduces an idea that I think might be relevant to the discussion of the The Hunger Games series of books.  

Reinke tells of his young 9 year old son who is a voracious reader.  He explains that his feelings about what his son reads comes down not to a question of "yes or no", but of "now or later".  He goes on to say that there are many books that it is a matter of timing as to whether they are appropriate reading.  

I think The Hunger Games books might fall into this category of "Now or Later" reading.  This idea resonated with my friend.  She felt they would draw teenagers into a book who are reluctant readers.  The writing is pretty good as far as I could tell from the preview I read online.  My friend solidly agreed with me, though, that these books would not be appropriate for 4th or 5th graders.  She was shocked that they would read them.  It made me realize that I should clarify what age I think of when I say "kids".  I am thinking of anyone 13 years old and under.  Once a child enters high school, I think of them as a teenager.  

Now back to something else Tony Reinke mentioned in his book...  he expounds on the value of reading secular fiction.  Often such books shed light on what one believes because it is so different from one's own world view.  It was Martin Luther who said that heresy comes from within the church--not from without--from a twisting of the truth.  It is easier, actually, to discern what is true and what is false in something that is very different than something that is very similar to what one believes.  It's all in how one puts it...

So, The Hunger Games.  Should we read them?  Should our children?  Should our teenagers?  I think those are personal questions.  There aren't any easy blanket answers to them.  I do think we should be concerned though and know what our children are reading--whether they are in public, private, or home schools.  As parents, it is our job to shelter and protect our children.  For me, that means I wouldn't want my children to read these books in elementary school and likely middle school.  But, I know we also need to help our children grow and learn to spread their wings so that when they're on their own, they can stand firmly.  And part of helping them grow means to answer the question of now or later with a "now" answer when I see my children maturing.  

So, I hope to walk alongside them and help them process what they're reading and hearing.  I want to help them see that God created all people--even those who want to deny it.  And that God is also in control of all things--even when people would deny it.  I was reading in 2 Kings this morning and I was just reminded of II Kings 19:25.  
25 “‘Have you not heard? 
   Long ago I ordained it. 
In days of old I planned it; 
   now I have brought it to pass, 
that you have turned fortified cities 
   into piles of stone. 

I know I only have young children, though I've taught students 5-60 years old.  But, I listen to my friends with older children and I listen to my mother in law and my mom and this is what I hear.  We need to walk alongside them.  We need to talk with our children and help them sift through what the world tells them.  If we run from it instead, they may grow fearful of this world and flee from it rather than face with it with the strength that God gives each of us.  

Dinner is calling me and as my mom puts it, I really pack a lot in a short amount of time, so though this is not a proper conclusion, I want to post these thoughts.  Please forgive my absent conclusion!


Kim said...

Spot on. I would recommend reading the books. They are well written and touch on some big issues that we should grapple with. However, most definitely not before high school. Mechanically the books are easy to read, but the subject material demands a certain level of emotional and intellectual maturity.

Michelle said...

Thanks for this. This was a useful comment to me :-)

Carol said...

Excellent commentary! I think The Hunger Games can also be used as a teaching tool of character - courage, strength, loyalty, trust and love of family. Instead of banning a teen to read the book, use it to help instill values. Harry Potter also caused a lot of dissent among parents, but many kids (and adults)read and enjoyed them. I haven't heard of any children who have turned to witch craft from the series, but I did see that it encouraged children to read. That, in my opinion, is wonderful!