Thursday, June 14, 2012

Should Kids Read "The Hunger Games"?

Should kids read The Hunger Games? My short answer is yes, but to understand that let me back up a bit here. 

I was always a precocious kid reading material with subject matter that was way beyond my years. When I was 8, my ward set a goal to read the Book of Mormon all the way through during the month of December to celebrate Christmas. I decided to read the children's Book of Mormon reader all the way through. The Book of Mormon reader contains all the stories from the Book of Mormon, but it's written in simple language so kids can read it themselves. This really helped me focus on the stories and what was going on rather than being bogged down by the King James style language associated with scripture. Those of you who have read the Book of Mormon know that it contains accounts of some really heavy stuff, and the children's reader keeps those stories while explaining them in a gentle and sensitive manner. This was the first time I realized just how cruel people can be to each other. By the time I was 12, I had read about Cambodia's death camps, the civil war in El Salvador, and life in Korea during the occupation by Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union. My dad is a World War II history enthusiast and had explained to me as sensitively as he could about the treatment of Allied POW's by Japan and Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust at a young age.

Each time I heard or read about these subjects, it made a deep impression on me. At first, I would wonder how I could be happy again living in a world where these sorts of atrocities take place. But over a few days, happiness would win out again as I socialized with my friends at school or went on outings with my dad and siblings to the grocery store. I'm glad that my first introduction to the evils of the world didn't come from a newspaper when I was an adult, but from sources close to me like my religion's scriptures and my dad. Novels for preteen readers also played a big role in this because when I read novels like Grab Hands and Run (about the civil war in El Salvador) and Year of the Impossible Goodbyes (about growing up in occupied Korea), it helped me put a person with the suffering and turmoil I was reading about instead of it being something that happens far away, long ago, and to other people. Reading books like these also helped me see that even great evil could be overcome and survived. 

So that brings me to The Hunger Games trilogy. This is a series of novels that depicts war atrocities in detail. Suzanne Collins's father was a Vietnam War veteran and I have a feeling that much of what she has written about has its basis in his experiences. The torture of prisoners, the use of civilians as pawns by the power hungry, and the nightmares that never go away are all things I have heard echoed by former soldiers and surviving refugees. They have their basis in reality. Also, the country Panem bears a significant resemblance to the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes in many ways. Real people have lived, suffered and died under conditions similar to those described in The Hunger Games. And I think that's why books like The Hunger Games are important to read. Because the worst thing we can do is to run away and hide from these things. Because if we do, we will forget them and repeat them. My husband and I have decided that this is a series of books we want our kids to read when they are teenagers. (The earliest I would introduce this book is thirteen.) I expect that at some point in the future it will probably become part of a home school unit study on war and peace. But it will be just one of many steps we take in educating our children about what happens when the love of power grows to dangerous proportions and also teaching them compassion for suffering.

No comments:

Post a Comment