There is no substitute for parenting your own child, especially when it comes to evaluating school reading assignments.
A Richland father is trying to help other parents by creating a website that rates books for offensive language and inappropriate content.
His intentions are great, and he is providing a valuable tool for the Richland School District. But that's all it is -- a tool.
Parents shouldn't rely solely on a web page to determine whether their child should read a book or not.
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It's fine to take the ratings into consideration, but reading the book yourself is the best way to decide if it's right for your child.
If you don't have the time, at least skim it thoroughly and research it through a variety of websites, not just one.
David Garber was concerned last year when one of his children read a book for an English class that he believed was inappropriate.
He approached the school board and a discussion followed about how best to let parents know about possible objectionable content in a book.
It's a tough call, because what is offensive to one person may not be to another.
The books are already listed in the syllabus, which parents should read, and teachers already encourage parents to call or e-mail them with their questions.
The school district also has an opt-out policy, which allows students to pick a different book if their parents don't approve of the one assigned.
With these safeguards already in place, the Richland School Board decided not to create a ratings system for classroom books.
So Garber has done it on his own.
The website, www.thebookbuzz.org, is not endorsed by the Richland School District, but is included as a link on its website as a service to parents and the community.
Garber, his wife and some other parents have spent hours reading books and rating them for offensive language and content.
They did a tremendous amount of work and the website should be helpful.
But the best thing parents can do is read along with their kids. Not only will they find out what their kids are reading, they'll also be prepared to discuss the material.
High school English teachers in Richland and elsewhere are assigning books with serious themes and challenging content.
Talking about a book can make for a wonderful, teachable moment for kids -- and parents.
Garber said he made the website especially for busy parents who don't have time to research their children's books.
He's done them a favor, but being busy isn't an excuse. Parents need to make the time to check on their kids.
A website can't replace parenting.