The other night my daughter was sitting on the couch, reading a book to herself and laughing out loud. She was not reading a great work of literature, but one of the Junie B. Jones books. Now, I know that Junie has been criticized as modeling poor behavior, not to mention poor grammar, but I was still surprised when talking with some acquaintances to find that several of them do not allow their children to read these books. (I wonder what they would do if their children were in my daughter's first grade class, where her teacher is actually reading the first book aloud to the whole class!) Why would I deprive my child of that laugh? And more importantly, why would I deprive her of the chance to make her own judgments about Junie's behavior? Characters in books are not supposed to be role models. They are supposed to be friends, entertainers, and sometimes, a jumping-off point for a discussion about the choices they make. They are supposed to show us new ways to think about ourselves and other people and the world around us. A role model rarely does that as well as a more complex, nuanced character does.
That doesn't mean that I don't think that certain books are inappropriate for my daughter right now. So I will warn her if I think a book is too hard or too scary. And I will not go out of my way to present her with books that I don't think are appropriate... or even all that good. And if I can't stand the book personally, I won't read it to her. But when she finds a book on her own, I let her read it. And laugh.