Monday, September 17, 2012

Never Too Old to Learn New Things

It may be true that we're never too old to learn new things, but I, for one, find it much more difficult to learn as I continue to age. I still retain the capacity to learn, but figuring out the tools with which the younger people are learning is giving me fits. My three-year-old granddaughter can figure out video games that dumbfound me.

Today, however, I did learn something new, and useful. It's probably been around for some time, but it is new to me as of this date. I'm speaking of the ability to check certain books on Amazon for specific word usage. 

This knowledge may be of no consequence to many people, but as a parent who likes to stay in tune with my young reader, it's invaluable. I read a lot of middle grade and young adult books, and when I find something that I think will appeal to one of my kids or young friends, I recommend it. But I may be in the middle of another book when my son brings something home from the library, and I like to know what he's reading.

Recently I read an MG book that had quite a few expletives tossed in - for flavor, or shock factor, or just to make it seem more realistic - I don't know the reason. I didn't find them so shocking that I wouldn't want my kid to read the book, but it did surprise me a bit. I was under the impression that slang curse words that are easily recognizable were mostly frowned upon for MG. Running across one or two interspersed in the text won't stop me from reading, but it does sort of make me cringe. And when I stop to cringe, I'm pulled out of the story, and that isn't such a good thing.

While at the library this morning, I talked with one of the children's librarians about a book that did not contain any foul words, but I thought it was definitely more in the YA age group that MG. There wasn't a single character, living or dead, under the age of fifteen, and the dead kids were relating some exceedingly graphic stories of how they died. Perhaps that isn't anything to be concerned about, but the tone of the book just didn't resonate at MG.

The librarian thanked me and said she would read through the book to make a determination, and then pulled a YA book up on Amazon. She showed me how to look inside the book. This is what made me do a little happy dance. It doesn't work with all books, but there is a feature on many of them that allows you to check for certain words in the text. She brought up one rather spicy slang word, and it brought up a hundred and one instances where that word was used in the text. It also showed exactly where each instance of that word was used, so that one could see the context of how it was incorporated. She didn't even type in the really bad word, but I saw enough to know that there were a lot of instances of that one in there, too.

I'm not complaining about the words in YA books. I'm simply excited to know that I have a way of checking out the context of books before I purchase them. Sometimes excerpts and reviews don't give us that.

Perhaps I'm just an old, behind-the-times reader who has little to look forward to, but I like learning about new technology - when I can understand it. This is something that even I can do.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week ahead. Check out this little gem on Amazon if you haven't, and let me know if it helps you.

Happy Reading,



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