Saturday, June 07, 2008
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