Age-Banding for Children’s Books

Here’s a link to an article from British newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, regarding the proposal made by most of the large publishers to begin banding children’s books with age-appropriate tags, and what author Philip Pullman has to say about it.

This would mean, that without prior author approval or input, books would be labeled +7, +9, +13/teen and so on.
With so many children turning away from reading I think the last thing we should be doing is to be directing them in any way to the books some authority feels they should be reading at a certain age. Let’s keep it wide open. Let kids read the books they’re ready to read when they want to. Let’s not squash that desire, that joy of discovery, that independence that allows a child to explore and choose their own book. Children vary so widely within their age groups anyway that the proposal is ludicrous. And this sort of smacks as censorship or a set-up for censorship in some way.
I grew up with two teacher parents and nothing was forbidden to me. It was not dictated when I could read a book. I made my way from my bookshelves to theirs in a kind of serpentine, organic ramble picking up books with an avid curiosity and the knowledge that a wealth of discovery lay within my reach. If a book’s themes were too mature then I put that book back on the shelf and came back to it when I was ready. I made my own choices.

2 thoughts on “Age-Banding for Children’s Books

  1. According to Fiona MacCarthy in her biography William Morris (pp. 5-6), Morris started to read Sir Walter Scott at the age of four and had (he claimed later) read all the Waverley novels by the age of seven. “He went on and on reading Walter Scott for ever…. Books to Morris had a magic.”

    Morris was born in 1834, so there were not very many children’s books around. He could not remember being taught to read; “nor could he envisage a time when he did not.”

  2. Yes, that’s a good point. Reading certain books at different stages in one’s life is a wonderful experience. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is a good example of this. One could read it at ages 10, 13, 18, as an adult.
    Or the books which are now classified as children’s books largely because of the subject matter (eg. they have elves, talking rabbits and wizards in them)- like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland- but which were not necessarily intended by the author to be so labeled. Just think how much of the inner meaning you would miss if you only read Alice in Wonderland at age 11 and never again because it was labeled with a big sticker saying +11.

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