So Christmas is fast approaching and some children's books will be seeing a whole new era of age banding. Yet, not all publishers are opting in, as this article from The Bookseller below points out.
Bookseller article: Age guidance divides trade as first Christmas approaches
The scheme will see age bands put onto the back of books, to show which children 'should' be reading them. This was put into place by some publishers after research by the Publishers Association (PA) showed that parents and gift buyers found it difficult to select age-appropriate books for children.
Hmm, what a reason...
I find myself on the side of some of the publishers who have failed to take on the scheme, for example Bloomsbury and Usborne. Also, many high profile authors are also against the scheme, such as Phillip Pullman, Anne Fine, Darren Shan, to name a few.
Although this scheme will of course make it easier for parents and gift buyers to choose age appropriate books (although it is beyond me why they can't look at the shelf headers in bookshops- they usually have age ranges), I feel this scheme is bad in two ways: 1) some children have a lower reading level than their age group and having age banded books will lower self-esteem and leave them open to ridcule, and 2) some children read above their reading age and although this may not seem something to be ashamed of, can lead to alienation and feeling self conscious.
As I a child, myself and a friend of mine had higher reading levels than some of our peers and it did create some tension. Some of the other children noted that we were reading above our reading age and with branding, I just feel it's an unneccesary addition, making this all the more obvious. Similarly, someone else I know had difficulty with reading and writing, always being far behind other children. I'm sure it's difficult enough when you are behind others and you have to get through the simpler books before you can progress. Therefore, should there be an age band making the child conscious of how far behind they are, just to please parents and gift buyers?
Not only for children's esteem, authors have also complained that age banding will mean certain age groups are excluded from reading their work. Children will feel less able to identify with certain characters if they have an age in mind when reading. Often, authors leave the age of their protagonist out for this very reason. Also, books often cross over between children, teen and adult genres. Readers are a mixed bag so why do we need more categories!?
I can see some of the benefits I suppose- it can be difficult shopping for a child in bookshops. Yet I feel that is what the staff and the visual pointers are there for. I'd much rather have a bit of hard work shopping to save the children of tomorrow feeling ashamed or conscious when reading.
Perhaps above all out of this, someone should've asked the kids?!
More information on age banding can be found here