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The Hunger Games: To Read, Watch or Not?

book cover of The Hunger Games

There has been so much conversation lately surrounding Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. Should children read it? If so, how old should they be when they are allowed to? Should they see the movie? If so, how old should they be for that?

I was in an elementary school library the other day and a young sixth-grader came up to the counter to check out one of the few copies of The Hunger Games that the library had available for students. She had a friend with her. The librarian checked the book out for the young girl and then ominously warned the girl, Your permission slip has been signed by your parents; but your friend here has not had her permission slip signed. DO NOT GIVE IT TO HER OR LET HER READ IT.

As I watched the two girls listen to the librarian’s admonition, I saw their eyes widen. I remembered desperately and subversively reading forbidden books when I was young—Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, just to mention a few. Personally, I think The Hunger Games is a great read for sixth-graders so I was secretly hoping the student would sneak and share the book with her friend.

My 11-year-old son shared this with me (he both read the book and watched the movie):

In my opinion, children should be over 8 to read [The Hunger Games] because you visualize what the book is talking about according to your age. If you are only 7 or 8 you are not going to visualize like a 27-year-old thinks when he reads the book. So what you imagine is just not as bad. When I read books, I don’t imagine huge carnage and stuff. Fifth graders and up should be able to see the movie because the movie is really not that bad. It’s PG-13. I guess I kind of think it’s totally up to both the parents and the kids. The kids should decide about the book and the parents should decide for the movie since it is PG-13.

What do you think?

Isabel Sawyer, PhD, is a Regional Director at Center for the Collaborative Classroom. She presents keynotes, workshops, presentations, and professional development for teachers, literacy coaches, and administrators across the country. Previously Isabel worked as a lead instructional coach for Albemarle County Public Schools and as an instructional coordinator for an inner-city school in Charlottesville, Virginia. Isabel holds her PhD from the University of Virginia and serves as an adjunct instructor in UVA's Curry School of Education. She has presented at local, state, and national conferences and worked with schools across the country as an independent consultant. 


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Comments (3)

We have been struggling with

We have been struggling with this at our house. I have read the book but have not yet seen the movie. My daughter is 9 and just finishing the fourth grade. She desperately wants to read the book. All the hype makes it hard to resist her pleas to read it. Most of her friends have been told they can read the book this summer. My first inclination was to wait until at least 6th grade. I don't think it appropriate for students much younger than that.

For me, the power of the book is lies in how Panem uses the hunger games as a tool of repression. The book explores themes of oppression, leadership, civil disobiedence, along with coming of age issues of gender, friendship, love, and sex. I feel like older middle schoolers and high school students would be able to really dig into and enjoy this. I worry that my daughter is not yet a reader who can access those topics. She won't be damaged by reading it, but I also don't think she will really understand it.

On the other hand, we could do it as a read aloud. We have some long family plane trips coming up. We could read and talk about it as a family. This would make me much more comfortable. Then after we read it together, she can go off and read it one her own. This is how we began the Harry Potter Series.

My guess is that this is how we will do it... 

Great thoughts, Peter. I'd

Great thoughts, Peter. I'd love to know what you decide. I really struggle with keeping books (or censoring them)  from my kids...and I am never sure of the right answer to that parental dilemma. My hope is that if they begin reading something that really is too complex for their maturity level, they will abandon it. On the flip side, maybe a little forbidden fruit is not all that bad--certainly keeps them interested in reading!!!! Maybe others will chime in...

Thank you, Isabel and Peter.

Thank you, Isabel and Peter.  You gave me a lot to think about.   I think about books that i have read at different times in my life - The Giver, Tuck Everlasting, Bridget to Terabthia - each time I read it I understood a different aspect of the plot.  Maybe I was not ready for the storyline the first time or maybe I was just not reading it as deeply as I could  I do think that though the storylines of books may seems out of reach for students from our adult perspective, sometime the excitement to read something enticing draws kids into reading yet their perspective is totally different then ours.  I actually go back and read these books every once in a while to see what more I can digest about the story. I also appreciate your idea, Peter, of a shared experience.  That you and your daughter could experience the book together and you could answer questions, wondering or address confusions on the spot! Keep up posted and let us know what you decide!