Brian Kenney's SLJ editorial about Common Sense Media led me over to their site for a gander. While Brian and Liz Burns, among others, have pointed out the problems with their labeling system and lack of a review policy (plus the creepy way they simply disappear reviews that have raised eyebrows), what bothers me most is that their ratings reveal a fundamental lack of understanding of how and why kids read. Which is to say: like the rest of us.
I spent this weekend reading John Sandford's Wicked Prey. I can see the little Common Sense Media icons lighting up, five little bombs for violence, five "#!"s for language, maybe three lips for sex, five cocktail glasses for substance abuse (bourbon for the good guys, crystal meth for the bad) and probably a couple of dollar signs for detective Lucas Davenport's vanity about his clothes and shoes. As far as role models (CSM's big thing) are concerned, there's a young girl who goes all vigilante on a pervert without telling her parents. (Deceiving one's parents seems to be the number one sin in the CSM bible.) Almost twenty-four hours have passed since I finished Wicked Prey, and I haven't yet killed anyone, abused any substances, or bought any shoes.
But it's different for kids, I imagine CSM would say. No, it isn't. It's different for parents. Parents who think Educational Value, Messages and Role Models (their caps, for what CSM calls "the good stuff") are what reading is about need to remember why they became readers in the first place.