I've been thinking a lot about censorship lately, at least as it relates to books. I've always been an adamant supporter of public libraries, freedom of the press, and our right to bear books (even above and beyond our right to bear arms). But when it comes to my kids, where do I draw the line?

When I've broached this topic before, I've had people proudly proclaim, "I let my kids read whatever they want." While I love the concept of that free-to-be-you-and-me position, I have to question any extreme. After all, I don't let my kids watch whatever they want on TV. I don't let them see rated R movies. For heck's sake, I feel like covering their eyes in the checkout line at the grocery store so they don't OD on Tori Spelling's body issues, or Lindsay Lohan's latest antics.

When people tell me they adhere to the "hands-off" approach to their kids' reading material, I want to ask them, "Would you let your 8-year-old read Neo-Nazi propaganda? The 'Anarchist Cookbook?' That devil-worshipping text that appears in every Satanic cult episode of CSI?" If their answer is "Yes," let's just say we won't be coming over for a play date anytime soon.

At the other extreme, we can monitor every book our child picks up, from the Archie comics to the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. We can discuss the finer points of feminism, using Betty and Veronica as conversation starters. We can drain all the fun out of Harry Potter by dissecting the hidden symbolism, and we can take a thick black marker and remove all references to ideology we disagree with and words that offend us. To me, that's not a great answer, either.

Books open huge possibilities and worlds to us, and I'll be the first one to admit that some of my reading material is outside the norm, and even offensive to others. Since I was old enough to walk to the Bookmobile on my own, I started making my own reading choices. The only book I can recall my mom removing from my possession was "Flowers in the Attic," the "Twilight" of the 1980s. As I recall, I was only 10 or 11 at the time, and though I was irate, in hindsight I agree with my mom's decision. Incest! The evil Grandmother! Premarital sex! Quite a load for a pre-teen to process (or even a 40-year-old, if truth be told).

Those ideas I encounter now in between the covers of my books aren't ones that I necessarily embrace whole-heartedly, but I'd like to think I have a little better sense of discernment than, say, my five-year-old who says she wants to dye her hair pink so she'll look like the girl in "Pinkalicious," a recent favorite.

But at what point do we let our kids dictate their own choices?

For me, the answer is just like anything else in parenting: When I think they're ready for it. I didn't let them dress themselves from birth. I don't let them choose their own food, bedtimes, or even after-school activities completely independently. I anticipate I'll continue to play this role until my kids are, oh, say 30 or so. I am a parent, after all, not a bookstore clerk whose only responsibility is to steer kids towards the latest trashy teen novel when they ask for it.

When it comes to reading — and life lessons — I try to take the middle-of-the-road approach, exposing my kids to new ideas, writers, books, and concepts as they seem ready for it. I let them choose "junk" sometimes (hello, Garfield comics!), but I also try to steer them towards the classics. I check in on what they're reading and ask them about it. I read as many of their books as I can, and try to keep abreast of the latest trends. And sometimes, I back off. Judy Blume's pre-teen classic, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" may seem a bit advanced for my soon-to-be fifth grade daughter, but she's within spitting distance of the age when I read the book myself. At the same time, though, if she tried to pick up Blume's "Forever" or "Wifey," I'd have a thing or two to say about it.

What about you? How much do you guide your kids' book choices?

This post was included in the latest Carnival of Homeschooling and A Homeschooling Carnival.