Saturday, June 07, 2008

Age Banding

For those who might not be aware of it, children’s books are now to be ‘age banded’, ie each book will be prominently labelled with the age of readership for which the publisher intends it. 7+, 9+, and so on. Note that I say ‘publisher’, because I’ve yet to hear of any author, teacher, librarian, independent bookseller, or reader who thinks this a good idea. I suspect that it’s a scheme that has been hastily hatched between publishers and large chains, in a lazy and ill-advised attempt to boost sales.

Children have differing reading ages, and tastes, and no child of, say, 10 years old is going to want to be seen reading a book that has a label saying 7+ on it, no matter how much they might love that book or how appropriate it might be for their reading ability. Conversely a 7 year old who has been told that he has a reading age of 10 (and whose parents are certainly going to let people know it) may struggle with the content of a book labelled 10+ even though he is capable of reading it.

Some sort of guidance is both helpful and necessary, but surely books already speak clearly enough for themselves? How do we as adults choose what to read and what not to read? We study the cover, we read the blurb, maybe look at a few sentences from the text, and we listen to the recommendations of others. This same process is perfectly suited to children’s books. Age banding can only stigmatise developing readers and restrict the more confident.

Big name authors are refusing to have their books labelled in this manner, and have enough clout to be able to threaten publishers with revolt if such a scheme goes ahead. Fortunately their names head the list of the hundreds who are protesting against the practice. If you’re interested in adding your own, then go to:

No To Age Banding


uncle_travelling_matt said...


I recently discovered 'The Various' at my local library, and have just started reading Celandine. Thank you so much, they are wonderful.

As a budding writer myself (nothing in print, but working on it) these are an inspiration.

I have also signed up to the No to Age Banding petition - what a ridiculous idea. With a daughter of 5 who is lapping up 'The Various' HERSELF, I feel we can't go pigeon-holing our children..again.

Keep up the good fight, thanks again.


Steve Augarde said...

Thanks for posting, Matt. Well, I think your daughter must hold the new record for being the youngest reader of The Various. I'm amazed, frankly - but then this is exactly why age-banding is such a bad idea. Those who argue that they need 'guidance' before buying a book, may find themselves confounded by their children's capabilities after all. As you say, why try to pigeon hole 'em?

uncle_travelling_matt said...

Well, she is nearly 6 and has read much of the Narnia books and Famous Five series, so I think perhaps she is one of those few children whose 'reading age' is advanced, but also a prime example of one who would be extremely frustrated by age banding.

But again, in a world where there's an increasing prevalence of no one apparently being able to be make their own decisions - and having to be guided by the hand, perhaps it's to be expected.

Hopefully we can show that responsibility for our children is ours, and not some higher power with a so-called heart in the right place.

Wow. Rant! Sorry bout that.

Oh, and my wife says I can't be responding to an author online, authors only live in AuthorLand, they're like little gnomes that write with charcoal lumps, and get fed on sour apples and porridge.

Is that true?

Steve Augarde said...

Yup, you can tell your wife she's right, Matt. Sour apples are only for the lucky ones, though. For the majority it's sour grapes. Porridge comes as standard.