Each year I encourage my children to read books from the school's suggested reading list. I often read the books before my children do so that I can discuss the content with them. Last summer I read Silent to the Bone by E. L. Konigsburg, a selection from the 6th grade list.
I was appalled to find Konigburg’s book to be several grades over my child’s head in terms of its sexual content. It is about a young boy who has an erection and feels so guilty about it that he literally stops talking (read the title again). The episode occurs when the naked, older, unmarried babysitter cozies up to him in the bathroom after bathing. The narrative includes a reference to a “Viagra thing” happening to the boy. The scene takes place after the babysitter has had sex with her biker boyfriend in the adjoining bedroom while the parents aren’t home.
Naturally, I don’t think that this book should be “suggested” for sixth graders. Remember, sixth grade children are 10, 11 and 12 years old.
The sexual content of this book is not what we should be teaching our 10, 11 and 12 year olds, at least not without the consent of the parents. To do so in this example would mean that we would first need to explain to a 10 year old the notion of premarital sex, why the main character in the book feels so guilty about his adolescent erection, and what Viagra is and why it was referenced. In Silent to the Bone, we learn in fiction that premarital sex is acceptable and that normal adolescent events are shameful and cause for terrible guilt.