You may have noticed I've not been in the writerly way for a while. Turns out that full-time teaching and grad school topped off with student teaching makes for an exhausted RMS. I've had things to say, but I've mostly been saying them to the pot of soup cooking on the stove, or the towel rack. But the other day I had a conversation with a colleague at work that had the rusty gears in my head turning for quite some time. It started out about Twilight, but ended up about so much more.
She wanted to know if, in my professional opinion, I thought Twilight was appropriate for her 8th grade daughter. After letting me know that her daughter is not terribly mature, she let me weigh in. I didn't get all Twi-ranty because, well really, that wasn't the point now was it? And I came down firmly on Twilight's side. Not because it's a great piece of literature, but because it is a largely innocuous and incredibly popular one. By this point every tween and teen in America has read it (or so it seems to me) and to deny her the chance to participate in the popular culture phenomenon of her adolescence is just cruel and necessary.
As we continued talking it became clear that her mother's concern was really sex and drugs. Not a problem, since Twilight is, after all, abstinence porn. Turns out that at the root of her strict policing of her teen daughter's reading habits, was a very real fear of books being a source of negative peer pressure.
"Sometimes, I think, that they read about it and they they want to try it. Right?" she asked me.
I've written before on how I think the exact opposite is true, and that was the conversation I delved into. About how teens read about things that they would never do because they want to understand them. About how drinking, drugs, and sex are a real part of the world. About credibility. About how the world is a place full of dangers and I'd rather my kids read about them than experience them first-hand. And finally, about how if anything is going to send your by-all-accounts-good-and-decent-kid down the rabbit hole it's going to be her peer group, not the library. In the end, it's about building your relationship with your teen. About having that conversation about myth and reality, fact and fiction, fun and dangerous fun. And about never turning away from that conversation, no matter how much you may want to.
What do you think?