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.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:
Research within the book industry suggests people buying books for children would welcome the guidance.
• Each child is unique, and so is each book. Accurate judgments about age suitability are impossible, and approximate ones are worse than useless.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.
• 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.