Book Rating Systems: Helping vs. Hurting Young Readers?

Intellectual Freedom Committee, Intellectual Freedom Issues, Midwinter Meeting/Annual Conference, Office for Intellectual Freedom

Every day leading to the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans, the OIF Blog will be featuring a special program, event, or opportunity awaiting attendees. Today we feature:

Intellectual Freedom Committee/Association of American Publishers Program

Whose Common Sense? How Labeling Systems Hurt Young Readers

Monday, June 27, 1:30 — 3:30 p.m.

Morial Convention Center, Rooms 393-394

Though rating systems are intended to provide trustworthy information for concerned parents, they also raise red flags about the “age appropriateness” of many worthwhile books, and make it remarkably easy for censors to target books they find offensive.  A high school student (Jeffrey Nadel, president of the National Youth Rights Association), a bestselling YA author (David Levithan), a publishing industry expert (Michael Norris) and a library researcher and scholar (Christine Jenkins) will examine the impact of such ratings systems on young readers.  The program, “Whose Common Sense? How Labeling Systems Hurt Young Readers” take place on Monday, June 27, from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in Rooms 393-394 of the Morial Convention Center.  The program is hosted by the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee in conjunction with the Association of American Publishers.

Libraries provide many valuable services for families, including advice, reviews, and other information to help parents make good decisions about reading material for their children. Rating systems developed by a variety of organizations are one source of such information. In recent years, these systems have rapidly grown and surged in popularity — particularly those that screen books and other media for hot button issues such as sexual content, profanity, violence, and “consumerism.” Common Sense Media is one of the largest and best-known examples of this trend.

Librarians and parents need to be aware that while these labeling tools may be convenient, they can also become tools for the censor.

Please bring your questions, concerns, and opinions to share at this thought-provoking panel presentation!