Academically or Developmentally Ready?

Had a conversation with a parent last week. She was telling me how she and her husband had just watched Apollo 13 with their 5th grade daughter over the weekend. After reassuring their daughter that the astronauts were going to be fine, they all got really engrossed with the film. The 5th grader asked some great questions that they stopped the movie to look up (i.e. Google). They enjoyed the experience so much that she was looking for other movies like that to watch together. Our conversation continued with us discussing the movies, plays and books that some parents expose their kids to at young ages.

I have noticed that many parents do not take the time to determine if a movie, book or TV program is appropriate for their child. To me it is a question of developmentally ready. Is a child developmentally ready for certain themes, scenes or ideas? Just becasue a movie is based on a comic book, does not mean that it is meant for children. Many comics are intended for adults and the movies made from them contain mature ideas.As a Principal, I was often asked by parents what could their voracious reader read next? Harry Potter? The Lightening Thief? My answer was always grounded in the particular child’s developmental stage.

Multiple factors need to be taken into account when determining if your child is developmentally ready for an experience. A good starting point is the chld’s age. Other considerations are birth order, cultural considerations, child’s temperment, the intended audience, and child’s background knowledge. It is important for each family to make viewing/reading decisions based on these factors as they relate to their family.

Let’s take a moment to look at one of these factors. Birth Order. In my opinion, parents are more likely to take into consideration whether their first born child is ready for the book, movie, etc. (maybe it is a case of… is the parent ready to acknowledge their oldest child is ready for certain experiences). But younger siblings can be made aware of topics and ideas through dinner conversations involving the older sibling. These younger siblings then have the background knowledge to potentially be developmentally ready for a movie or TV program than their classmates. As my sons were growing up, we would often discuss that what we consider appropriate for our family may not be for a friend’s family. And the other way, my husband and I would say that ‘does not work for our family,’ when something was brought to us for approval.

A quick note, the intended audience of the book/movie should be considered. Having observed elementary students at theater productions that are intended for adult audiences, I wonder if a parent is prepared for the questions that may arise. In discussions, I have been told ‘it will just go over their heads.’ If topics will not be understood by a child, then what is the point of exposing them at this point? For some curious children, this non-understood concept may lead to exploration to get the meaning.

So how do you know what the intended audience is? Or what the story involves? There are some great resources out their. Amazon has editorial reviews by librarians and authors. Reading what other customers have said also can inform a parent as to how their child may respond (i.e. temperment). CommonSense Media ( has reviews that include age suggestions, how many positive messages or illicit behavior, and a section on what parents need to know.

Also refer parents, and yourself, to the school Librarian, often an underutilized faculty member. Don’t forget that you can and should be a great resource for your classroom or school parents.

Remind parents that there is plenty of time for their child to be exposed to ideas and events. It is important to recognize what their child is ready to understand without overwhelming them or frightening them.

How do you support parents in their quest to determine whether their child is academically or developmentally ready for some media? Reach out with your ideas via Twitter (@edtechease) or Facebook ( or email me,

Originally posted on  Friday, 11 January 2019.

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