Stories about: Books

Is The Hunger Games movie too scary for younger fans of the book?

Scene from The Hunger Games movie

The movie The Hunger Games opens today, and record tickets sales are expected to make the grisly, post-apocalyptic, survival tale one of the spring’s biggest blockbusters. Like the Harry Potter and Twilight series before it, The Hunger Games film is based on a book written for young adults that has captured the imaginations of readers of all ages.

Considering the ultraviolent nature of The Hunger Games’ plot line—24 teenage protagonists are pitted against each other in a fight to the death—is all this hype a good thing for young, would-be fans? The intended age for young adult novels is 12 to 17, but the books’ popularity has piqued the interest of much younger readers. Not wanting to sully their younger children’s budding interest in reading, many parents across the country have allowed them to read the story.

But just because your child has read The Hunger Game books, does that mean she’s ready to watch it’s bloody action unfold on the big screen? The answer will vary from child to child, but it’s a question parents of younger Hunger Game fans need to ask.

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What does the new AAP policy say about screentime for babies?

Michael Rich, MD, MPH

Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston

On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a revised policy on media for kids two and younger. The recommendations for this age group are much the same as they were in 1999—that it is best for their developing brains and bodies to avoid both screen use (such as placing a toddler in front of a TV or video) and background media (such as leaving the TV on in the same room where a baby is playing)—but there is new scientific evidence to support these recommendations. An infant’s brain triples in volume in the first two years of life and research suggests that brain development during that time can benefit the most from:

We already knew that newborn brains develop in response to whatever is in their environment. New research from the past 12 years suggests that interacting with people, exploring the physical world (like stacking blocks or “reading” board books), and playing in open-ended ways are great for that development. And no matter how “educational” their content, screen media can’t provide that kind of environment.

That said, screen media aren’t toxic for babies—they’re just not really what they need. And other kinds of media, like music and books, can be great for kids of this age group. The updated AAP policy statement also recognizes that there are good screen media options for preschoolers, whose brains have developed to the point where they can learn from electronic screens.

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Children's in the news

Have you heard about the new kids’ book, “Maggie Goes on a Diet”? It’s basically a retelling of the age-old ugly ducking fable, but with a modern twist. In this reenactment, the duckling is a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet, and with a little hard work goes from being an overweight, self-conscious kid to a star soccer player and the most popular girl in school.

The book may stress the importance of healthful eating and exercise, but many people are finding fault with the author’s emphasis on the thin = happy storyline, instead of focusing on the importance of health.

Among the critics is our own Dr. Claire, who was on New England Cable News this morning to talk about Maggie, childhood obesity and how to send kids the right message about health and weight.

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Harry’s last hurrah

By Lauren Rubenzahl, EdM, program coordinator at Children’s Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH).

Last night at midnight, the final installment of the Harry Potter movies opened in theaters, creating exhilaration and, maybe, a sense of loss for those who have grown up with Hogwarts on the brain and magic in the air.

Since his first appearance in 1997, Harry has cast a spell on the hearts of Muggle children, teens and adults everywhere. The stories have been credited with engaging tentative readers, and with getting them to read longer books than many adults thought they were ready for. But that level of engagement isn’t all magic. It’s believed that Harry’s adventures may be organized in such a way as to better connect with readers on a personal level as they age. With each book, Harry is another year older, the story is longer, and the intensity is greater. Because of this gradual maturation, legions of Potter-ites say they felt like they’ve grown up with Harry.

It’s an interesting story-telling technique, but it could present a problem for some families with young readers who are just discovering the series. When Harry’s adventures were originally released, kids had no choice but to wait the few years in between books; by the time the next one was published, they were usually ready for its content. But now the books are all readily available, so asking a young reader to wait a year or two in between installments could be met with a lot of resistance. What’s more, few parents want to discourage their children’s budding enthusiasm for reading and will allow their children to read the later Potter stories earlier than the author may have intended. (It’s suggested that his youngest readers should be about Harry’s age in any given book.)

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