Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Age-Rating Books for Children: Right or Wrong?

While BBC News today asks if age-rating books books for children is right or wrong, I think a better question might be: useful or not? Do parents really need someone else’s opinion on what reading material is “suitable” for their children? Some publishers in the UK seem to think so because, later this year, a scheme to add an “age band” to books will begin:
Each book will carry a specific marking indicating whether they are suitable for readers aged 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ and 13+/teen.

Research within the book industry suggests people buying books for children would welcome the guidance.
The mere suggestion of an age writing system for books strikes me as ridiculous and even wrong. I’m not alone in my reaction. Some 750 authors and illustrators have gotten together and formed a group called No to Age Banding. The authors speaking out against age-rating books include Terry Pratchett, Andrew Morton, Anne Fine, JK Rowling, Celia Rees, Neil Gaiman, Roddy Doyle, David Almond, Allan Guthrie, Diana Wynne Jones, Anthony Horowitz and many, many others. The reasons they offer against age banding books are compelling. Here are a few of them:
• Each child is unique, and so is each book. Accurate judgments about age suitability are impossible, and approximate ones are worse than useless.

• Children easily feel stigmatized, and many will put aside books they might love because of the fear of being called babyish. Other children will feel dismayed that books of their “correct” age-group are too challenging, and will be put off reading even more firmly than before.

• Age-banding seeks to help adults choose books for children, and we’re all in favour of that; but it does so by giving them the wrong information. It’s also likely to encourage over-prescriptive or anxious adults to limit a child’s reading in ways that are unnecessary and even damaging.
We agree. If you do to, you can visit the No to Age Banding Web site and add your voice to the growing number already there.

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Blogger Sun Singer said...

I'm glad you covered this issue. It wakes only a few minutes to check out the site and learn why age banding is a horrible idea. Once you sign up, you get e-mail updates.


Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 8:06:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Melinda said...

Never mind age banding. I agree it would not work but how about giving books a rating like PG or R according to content like four letter words and sex or drug use. We do that for movies and TV. Why not books?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 at 10:25:00 AM PST  

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