Monday 17 February 2014

Why I'm Happy to Support Age-Banding of Children's Books by Emma Barnes

I’m a bit reluctant to raise this issue, because I know even a mention of it can cause fellow authors to start foaming at the mouth, talking about the end of civilization as we know it. For some reason, this is an issue that authors feel very strongly about. So here goes (whisper it)… I support the age-banding of children’s books. And many authors don’t.

 My new book actually has an age recommendation on the cover. See? My publishers were tentative when they first suggested it. They are obviously well aware of the sensitivities around this issue. But I said…go ahead.  It's actually very subtle.

For those not familiar with this topic, it kicked off a few years back, when publishers found, having surveyed their customers, that most would welcome some guidance on the covers of children’s books. There are, after all, a vast amount of titles in print. It’s not always clear from a cursory glance how “kiddish” a Wimpy Kid may be, how “little” a Little Woman or how “wild” a Wild Thing (in case you’d like to know, she’s a wild five year old, but her adventures are narrated by her older sister, and my publisher expects her adventures to appeal to 8 plus.)

Often the same author and illustrator produce books that look similar but are actually for different age-groups. These books by Jacqueline Wilson are for different age groups, but can you tell the difference?

When publishers first suggested that it might be a good idea to put a discreet piece of age guidance on back covers (very discreet indeed) a tirade of author anger was let forth. A campaign was started. Prestigious authors protested. You can see their statement of opposition here and author Philip Pullman’s particularly resounding condemnation here.

I will say straight off that I’m absolutely in agreement with all those authors and librarians who have a desire to see children have as much access to books as possible. It’s something I feel passionately about (as any friend who has heard me rant on about this subject will attest.) I so much want children to find books they enjoy. I despair when I hear about another library closure…visit a school with shelves virtually devoid of books…or read studies like this, with its grim findings about the negative attitudes of children to books. (My heart lifts when I meet those inspiring teachers and librarians that are doing wonderful work to bring books and children together.) I desperately want children to have access to books, and to find the books that appeal to them – and I think it’s a massive tragedy that so many don’t.

If I could have three wishes, one would be for every primary school to have a librarian – somebody well read in children’s books, able to maintain a well-stocked library, to keep up with new releases and to guide children to the books likely to interest them. The Society of Authors is campaigning for exactly that, and I think it would have a massive, positive impact on children’s reading – and their wider well being.

What I don’t understand is why an age recommendation on a book is somehow seen as being contrary to these ideals.

The trouble I think is in some people’s minds, age guidance of any kind seems to mean only one thing: censorship. Now censorship can be an issue in children’s books: every year, for example, the list is published of most banned books from US libraries. Then there is the more implicit kind of censorship – the worry that publishers might perhaps feel that a gay character will prove less popular than a straight character in YA fiction, or should be of a certain race to maximize sales. But neither of these issues have anything to do with age-banding. And especially not here in the UK, where I’ve seen little evidence that (the sadly increasingly few) children’s librarians out there are interested in limiting children’s access to books in any way. As for parents, I’d argue that they are more concerned about what kids see on the screen, than what they might find between the pages of a book.

Having an age guidance figure on a book does not mean a child can’t or shouldn’t read it. It’s not a legal limit. It’s guidance. Guidance. That’s all. Last time the issue hit the news, I remember reading an article where the journalist explained he’d been reading Balzac at age nine. (Or was it Voltaire at eight? I can’t remember.) Nobody is setting out to rein in Balzac-reading nine year olds. I’m not especially worried how many swear words adolescents read either. (Though some are – see the recent debates following this article about a new YA novel, which sparked off the age-banding debate again.) What I do care about is that more books should reach more children – and I think that some kind of well-meaning indicators for the adults choosing books (it is mostly adults who buy children’s books) helps that goal.

One thing we do know for sure is that many parents almost never buy books for their children. Surveys show that almost one in three children in the UK did not own a single book.  Research in the UK and USA has also shown that book ownership is strongly correlated with children’s enjoyment of, and ability in, reading. Children who owned more books were significantly more likely to have positive attitudes to reading. And there is now strong evidence that children who read for pleasure do significantly better educationally in all areas than those who don’t – even in mathematics - see here.  Have a look at this overview to see the many important benefits reading for pleasure brings.

For me, all of the above is strong evidence that we should do whatever we can to help parents in getting books to their children. As a parent buying books, I know I’m regularly confused about who a book is aimed at. I inspect the cover…the blurb…I flick through. And some of the time, I’m still confused. But the cover and blurb are “rich in clues” the anti-age banding lobby tells me. Well, guess what. I can’t always read the clues. And if I can’t read them – and I’m a children’s writer – then why should any other parent be able to either? And do you know what happens when parents can’t tell? They buy a copy of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, because they can remember exactly what it was like and who it was for, or they buy a copy of Roald Dahl for the same reason. Now, I’ve got nothing against either author. Or the tables and tables of rereleased classics – Stig of the Dump, Tom’s Midnight Garden – that seem to be mushrooming in my local Waterstones. But I think it is a shame if it means that children are less likely to discover contemporary authors, the ones that are writing specifically for them, about their lives, right now.

It’s even more of a shame - more of a mini-tragedy - if that parent (or aunty, granddad, friend) gives up on the idea of buying a book for fear of getting it wrong and decides it would be much easier to buy something else instead.

Not everybody is familiar with the language of book covers. Not everyone has even heard of Roald Dahl, Horrid Henry or Winnie-the-Pooh. It’s true. The most striking example I can think of is the woman I know who gave a ten year old an explicitly erotic bodyripper as a present. She gave it in genuine good faith, and would have been mortified to know of its content. But she didn’t read the clues. (In fact she had worked out it was historical, and she knew this particular child liked history. It wasn’t that she couldn’t be bothered trying to find the right book.) She was a member of an immigrant community, and English was not her first language. There are many parents in this category. There are also people who are unfamiliar with libraries and bookstores, or who struggle to read themselves. Many still want to buy books for their children. They may not, however, have easy access to advice, or be able to easily afford to write off the price of a book if they “get it wrong”.

I can’t help feeling there’s a kind of intellectual snobbery in the idea that everyone should be able to deduce the nature of a children’s books – (or even, as sometimes helpfully suggested, that they should read the book first themselves. Maybe a parent of a book hungry child doesn’t have the time? Maybe they don’t have the ability? A voracious reader will be reading far more at eight, nine or ten years old than even the most interested adult will have time to keep up with.) I also find it rather ironic that children’s authors – generally a liberal and leftward-leaning lot – have been so keen to embrace a line which I feel can make it harder for many to enter and explore the world of children’s literature.

So why else are people opposed? These seem to be the main arguments:

Slower readers will feel embarrassed about reading books with younger age-ranges on the cover 

I put this one first, because it may be true and certainly does concern me. But I’d be interested to see the evidence that age ranges on covers puts off readers – or that kids even notice them. (They are pretty discreet – look at the photo.) When I asked high school librarians recently about the accelerated reader scheme – which assigns a “level” to books, and then encourages children to progress through the levels – they denied that having “levels” humiliated or embarrassed less able readers. On the contrary, they claimed that the scheme appealed most to exactly those kids (less able boys) that form the much worried about “reluctant reader” category.

You can’t choose an age-range – every child is different.

They are. And they may develop at different rates. But it’s surely daft to say that because individual children vary, age is irrelevant. A child will most likely enjoy The Gruffalo before they start reading Horrid Henry before they read Harry Potter… Even if there is no explicit age band given, there is still an audience in mind.

Expert librarians and booksellers can guide children to the right books.

Sadly, both are becoming almost as rare as hen’s teeth. (And likely to remain so unless the political and economic climate changes.) Libraries and bookshops are closing at an alarming rate.

So can teachers. 

Another lovely thought, but until children’s literature is a much more prominent part of teacher training, and every primary school has a designated school librarian (and well-stocked library) most children will not get this kind of expert guidance. Primary teachers are generalists, not book specialists, and have 30 plus children in their class. 

Bookshops already categorise by age.

Yes. So why shouldn’t publishers help them? After all publishers and authors know the books best. And what about those buyers (likely to have the lowest incomes) who can only access charity shops or supermarkets?

Good books are for everyone. Age is irrelevant. 

Yes – and no. Sorry. Yes, I might enjoy curling up with Alice or Winnie-the-Pooh or Jennings or The Church Mouse or The Ogre Downstairs or a zillion other favourite children’s books, but the art of writing for children, I’d argue, is that the writer is able to craft something that appeals (in language, theme or content) primarily to a child at a particular stage of development, with a particular level of experience. The very few genuine crossovers (Harry Potter perhaps) remain the exception, not the rule. I love reading children’s books, but I read them on those terms – I feel privileged to return to a child’s view when I read them, and I don’t expect to find an adult perspective or theme suddenly appear. (Some children’s books, especially picture books, may include jokes for their adult readers. That’s great. But they mustn’t lose sight of their child reader. And even the most universal of material – say, Greek mythology – will be presented in different ways appropriate for different age-groups.)

In conclusion, I’m glad that my book has an age-band on it. I hope it won’t put off those six or seven year olds who might enjoy it, or much older readers too. I don’t believe that it will. And if it helps those people, parents in particular, that I’ve met at schools and signings, and whose first question is always: “What age is it for?” then I’ll be more than happy.


Emma's new book, Wild Thing,  about the naughtiest little sister ever, is out now from Scholastic. It is the first of a series for readers 8+.

 Wolfie is published by Strident.   Sometimes a Girl’s Best Friend is…a Wolf. 
"A real cracker of a book" Armadillo 
"Funny, clever and satisfying...thoroughly recommended" Books for Keeps - Book of the Week 
"This delightful story is an ideal mix of love and loyalty, stirred together with a little magic and fantasy" Carousel 

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madwippitt said...

With you Emma - it would help a lot of purchasers. I'm constantly reshelving books at a local charity shop (one in Roald-Dahl land, ironically enough) as I keep finding adult books on the children's shelves and vice-versa - and some of those adult books are very definitely not the sort of thing you would want the average 10 year old riffling through ... well, not a ten year old that you care about. Age guides will help buyers and won't stop readers from reading either side of it. I mean, for goodness sake, look at all the adults who read Harry Potter! And yes, there are adults who haven't heard of a lot of classics, never mind newer books: that local charity is one example for instance. And more worryingly still I wrote a book recently and casually mentioned Heffalumps in passing. The publisher queried it. "What is a Heffalump?" she asked. Yes, really.

Heather Dyer said...

Interesting - I can see it helps the book buying adults. But I do recall being 8 years old and having my auntie buy me James and the Giant Peach, and when I saw '7+' on the back, I was mortally offended! In my view, I thought that this implied that it was for children younger than me, therefore below me. Children like their books (and characters) to be slightly older than themselves, something to aspire to. Reading a book with a younger reading age than your own feels like 'dumbing down' to a child. I know it's silly, but that's my recollection...!

Playing by the book said...

A persuasive piece.

I think I'm realising that age banding means something quite different to those whose experience of books is very different to mine. Because I'm immersed in books I can read the clues better than those who haven't got the same background. Is it a debate about supporting those who rarely buy books rather than worrying about concerns of those who buy lots of books? (I know it's not really that black and white).

Examples of age banding I've found helpful are ones where it includes listeners as well as independent readers, if you like an "interest level" as well as an independent reader level. A range rather than a single digit (I know a range is implied by the + following the number)

Emma Barnes said...

Playing by the book - I think you're right, there are different audiences with different needs. I do feel that the arguments have been skewed in a way because so many of the opinions come from very "literary" folk, who are so familiar with books, authors, how to read covers, probably have access to good advice - and in short understand all the "clues" that can actually be really tricky to work out.

I suppose one of the key points I'm trying to make is that we really need to get more books into the hands of more kids - and when parents say they want this kind of guidance, it's not fair to ignore that.

Elen C said...

I really like Hot Key books' solution. They have a little pie chart on the back with the sort of things the book contains.
There's no number anywhere, but it does provide useful guidance.

I don't like the idea of a number, mostly because of seeing a young relative of mine struggle to learn to read. He was very, very aware of the readings levels (educational books have them) of his friends compared to his own. It was a source of very real humiliation for him.

Playing by the book said...

I'd really like to hear more examples about the experiences of kids using the accelerated reader scheme - I like the anecdote in your post Emma, and would be really interested in hearing others experience of the labelling.

C.J.Busby said...

I do agree, an have thought so since the debate exploded. The age range is a guide, not a rule, and you know whether your child is likely to be reading above or below it. In terms of the less able reader, there are plenty of books now - David Walliams, the Wimpy Kids books, which are relatively easy to read but would be graded at a higher age band in terms of interest and appeal, so they do a good job of dealing with that 'reading down' issue. In my experience, poorer readers don't necessarily enjoy books aimed at younger readers just because they can access them more easily. My slightly dyslexic daughter would rather struggle through a Marcus Sedgewick or Patrick Ness than read Mr Majeika even though that would be much more appropriate to her decoding ability. The advantages of age interest/appropriate guidance for adults buying for a child seem to me to far outweigh the disadvantages.

Betty said...

As an adult trying to buy for friend's children I support some guidance on age. It all gets a little muddy and I desperately want to buy something they will enjoy and not necessarily fall back on the classics. However, as a child I had a reading age beyond my years, but refused to read a book for older readers as indicated by the age guidance. Whilst I was capable and would have enjoyed the story I didn't want to be apart from my contemporaries. This is something I would have been far less aware of without the guidance on the cover. However, might the answer be a guidance sticker that helps people select in shops but can be removed before gifting the book?

Lily said...

Very well-argued sensible post, Emma. In the 70s - which many people consider a golden age for children's publishing - puffin books edited by Kay Webb, who published just about every classic children's author of the time, always had age guidance. Not on the cover as far as I remember, but on the inside page where the synopsis or blurb was. I imagine many of the authors now objecting to age branding grew up with these books and I wonder if it had any impact on their reading. I think any age guidance will always be for adults, rather than for children, who will read whatever takes their fancy so long as they are allowed to (and not judged for it). Personally I think the gender branding of children's books is way more harmful than age banding although I can appreciate arguments against age guidance. Bring back librarians!

Donnako1 said...

I echo that I found this piece persuasive when my instincts would be against age indicators.

Another concern though is the publisher giving a mis-leading age indicator. I recently gave a friend's 4yo a new edition of one of Enid Blyton's Amelia Jane collections. I hesitated when I saw '7+' printed on the back but went with it based on my own memories, the clues on looking at it (as described above)& knowledge of the family. I hate to think of many 4-7yos missing out cos it's marked as '7+' and of many 7yos getting it but rejecting as too babyish.

While I accept the arguments for the small, subtle indicator, I feel inclined to something more descriptive emphasising that kids will enjoy a wide range of books at any age often reading simpler books to themselves & having deeper books read to them on the same day.

Donnako1 said...

I see where you are coming from with the sticker idea but I think the secondhand market for books is so important that I do want it on the book. (see reference to guiding charity shop volunteers above)

Ann Turnbull said...

"What age is it suitable for?" is what people always ask me when considering buying one of my books. I think it's a perfectly reasonable question and in a one-to-one conversation I always suggest an age-range. I do have slight reservations about age recommendations printed on books for the reasons that others have given, and also for the more subtle feeling that it makes them look like part of the education system rather than reading for pleasure (does that make sense?) But I do think we need to do everything possible to make it easier for people to choose books for children, so I would not object to age guidance. Betty's idea of a peel-off sticker sounds good. I now have my website divided into Older, Middle and Young sections, which I hope helps a bit without giving actual ages.

Lucy Coats said...

A really excellent piece, Emma. I was thinking about this only last week, when I picked up a book which looked as if it was for 8+, but which I later discovered had content suitable for much older kids. Part of that confusion was due to the publisher's blurb, though, which was misleading in the extreme. I do like the Hot Key pie chart idea - that seems an easily decodable solution, and acceptable to all sides of this ongoing debate. You're entirely right - the main thing is to help book buyers to make an informed choice, and to get the books into the hands of as many child readers as possible.

Jonathan Emmett said...

I’m also with Emma on this. It’s an important issue and it was depressing to see the way in which the debate was conducted a few years back, with one side (those authors opposed to age guidance) hectoring those on the other. It’s great to see Emma addressing the issue in such a calm and reasoned way.

I think the the assumption that putting age guidance on a book can only restrict a child’s reading needs challenging. As a children’s author, I’m often asked to recommend books for other people’s children and when Christmas or a child’s birthday is coming up, friends often suggest that I give a suitable book to their child as a present. I’d been doing this on a regular basis for one friend’s children, but a few years back we hit a bit of a hiccup. The friend had told me that her 10-year-old daughter loved Louis Sachar’s Waysides School books, so I offered to get her daughter Sachar’s novel “Holes” as a Christmas present. The friend got back to me and told me that, having read some of the book’s customer reviews on Amazon, she didn’t think the book’s setting and subject matter was suitable for a 10-year-old (a lot of the story is set in a correctional labour camp for adolescent boys) and that, while she didn’t doubt that it was an excellent book, she wanted to preserve her daughter’s innocence for a little longer. I told her that the customer reviews gave a misleading impression of the book’s content and mentioned that my wife and I had read the book as a bedtime story to our son when he was 8 and that he’d hugely enjoyed it. However the friend was adamant the book was unsuitable for her own child, so I ended up buying her daughter another book instead. A few months later, I was trying to find a book for the same child’s birthday when I noticed that The Red House web site included “Holes” among it’s 9+ age recommendations. Knowing that her daughter was still keen on Sachar’s other books, I went back to the friend and asked her if she’d accept that this showed that the book was age-appropriate. She did, so I gave her daughter the book and she adored it.

If I’d have thought of it at the time, what I could have done was pointed out that the film of “Holes” was a PG certificate, which shows that , in the judgement of BBFC, the story’s content was suitable for children of 8 years and older.

The BBFC certification system demonstrates that applying an age rating does not necessarily narrow the appeal of a story. The most popular film at UK cinemas last year was “Despicable Me 2”. The film appealed to cinema-goers of all ages, despite it’s U certificate indicating that its content was suitable for children 4 years and older. I know that there are people (adults and children) that don’t go to see U certificate films like the “Despicable Me” movies, “The Incredibles” or even “The Artist”, because of the 4+ age rating and I’m sure that there will be children that will not want to read books labelled 4+ or 8+ for the same reason. That is their loss, they are victims of their own prejudice. Age banding is often rejected on the basis that we have to recognise and accommodate such prejudices – but prejudices ought to be challenged rather than accommodated.

“The Lego Movie” has just come out in the UK to rave reiviews. It’s a U certificate. Despite the 4+ age guidance label this denotes, both my 12-old-daughter and 17-year-old son are keen to see it, as am I. Is it really so unreasonable to suggest that children are capable of taking the same nuanced approach to books as they already take to film and DVDs? If the anti-age-banding lobby can’t tolerate a numerical banding system (4+, 8+, 12+) then why not adopt the similarly banded BBFC system (U, PG, 12) the meaning of which is widely understood?

Emma Barnes said...

Thank you so much for so many thoughtful responses! (I was afraid I'd meet a tide of rage on this one, and I'm glad even those on the other side of the argument have been receptive. Like Jonathan, I think the argument in the past has sometimes inspired more heat than light.)

CJ - I'm interested in the points you make from the perspective of a parent whose child does actually have some reading difficulties. I think it's a good point that age guidance can actually be helpful in pointing those children to books that will interest them, and which may be easier in style.

Lily - I remember those puffin books too! "May appeal to a sporty girl or boy of 10plus who is also interested in wildlife..." seems quaint, but actually quite helpful!

Emma Barnes said...

Thanks authors Elen, Lucy, Ann for joining this debate. (Lucy, I thought of Atticus when writing the post as an example of Greek myth made accessible to younger children.)

The Hot Key pie chart is interesting - I wonder how parents are finding it - can they interpret it easily? The idea of a book sticker is interesting too.

The main point against seems to be that explicit reading ages can humiliate children - they will always want to "read up". I'm not sure this is so, and if so it applies to schools rather than private home reading - because schools are where you may be observed reading by your peers. Ironically books in schools are often given educational "levels" anyway.

RosyB said...

I suppose there's a couple of issues coming out for me here. The idea of levels and advice for reading ability and the idea of reading or advice on content. That's the difference between books and films, isn't it? A film being a U doesn't necessarily mean it's aimed at 4 year olds but means that it won't contain horribly disturbing stuff. So there is less of the problem of kids or adults feeling humiliated watching a film that is U or a 12 - it's not saying that this is your "watching ability". And I suppose that's where the debate is more tricky for kids' books.

I remember reading being diabolical in school and we were made to read to levels. I didn't find reading interesting or inspiring at school and the same books I loved at home could be chore at school (go figure).

The best thing our teacher did was read to us. It was nothing to do with levels or reading or achievement. She found a book and read it out to the class at quiet times. I remember this was phenomenal. The kids would beg her to read on. Many of them rushed off and bought the book and it became a subject of shared joy and ownership in my class. And nothing to do with marks or anything off-putting. Nothing separated people on it - everyone owned it if you like. And we'd get to vote on which books we liked best and which she'd read to us next.

All this being said - I also remember reading books at home and they had the usual puffin stuff or whatever written on. At home, I didn't associate this with reading levels and I didn't care about it at all - an old favourite was an old favourite - I didn't care whether it was for a 7 year old or a 10 year old or whatever. So, yes, I suspect that is because it was enjoyment only - removed from marks and levels and achievements and who was reading what faster or better than who.

So - all this waffling aside - I do think this piece raises really good points. But maybe if there was a way to remove the idea of the banding from the school-associated "marking" or "levels" etc that would help too. But all that being said, I don't really know how that would be done.

I personally think that teachers reading to kids like mine did would be a good thing - to be sheer enjoyment only and something shared, not competitive. Reading shouldn't be about competing really. It's a thing that everyone should own and allows access into everything in society really. We have lost the art of enjoying stories and oration together (if you like) and I do think that getting kids excited about stories is the way to get them excited about reading.

All that being said - I'm not a writer for children, a mother or a teacher so this could all be nonsense. But I do see that a label on a book might - just might - be something a child ascribes to him or herself. So if there were a way to make it less like that in some way....Perhaps they should say Readers from 7-45 will enjoy this book! :)

(PS I loved Despicable Me. That's not for kids!! No - it's MINE!)

Jonathan Emmett said...

You're right, Rosy, reading age and age appropriate content are two separate issues. I don't know if this prompted Emma to write her post, but the debate has kicked off again recently as a result of Martin Chiltern's Telegraph piece about the age appropriateness of the content (specifically the swearing) in "When Mr Dog Bites".

I’m only arguing the case for age guidance on content rather than reading age. I don’t think content guidance is having a detrimental effect on the film or DVD industry, either artistically or commercially, and if properly handled I don’t think it would have a detrimental effect on children’s publishing. And, as Emma argues, it would help people less familiar with children's books to make an informed choice and therefore more likely to buy or borrow a book for a child.

Ann Turnbull said...

Rosy, I think you are spot on! And I too remember being read to at school - right up till the age of 16-17 - and it was wonderful and inclusive, as you say. It is also very important to differentiate between reading level and content.

Nick Green said...

Well, Emma, you clearly know what you are talking about, because I still remember your 'Wolfie' being one of the few modern children's books that my son really responded to... He'd enjoyed being read classics like Charlotte's Web but nearly every more recent book left him cold/confused/disturbed. But 'Wolfie' hit the target perfectly. Proof that you know your stuff.

Penny Dolan said...

A fine well-argued piece, Emma - especially now that, sadly, primary teachers seem not to be taught about modern children's literature beyond a few key "literacy curriculum" names. Thanks.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I'm one of that dying breed, the teacher-librarian. Schools everywhere seem to have decided that saving money is more important than having someone who knows their subject in the library. And it's absolutely true that few classroom teachers have the time to gain the expertise they need.

It's also, in my opinion, true that reluctant readers are less likely to read a book if they think it's below them. Bad enough they can't read books their friends are enjoying, but then they find one they can read and it's got a label on it saying it's for younger kids!

Part of the problem is the majority of publishers who don't think there's money to be made by publishing high interest low-reading level books. Or if they do, they get it wrong, assuming that if it's thin, that will be enough, never mind the long words and the small print.

I remember one publisher that got it all right, with a series of great crime novels fr reluctant readers, written by the top children's writers in the country, with great covers...and then age-banded it. I suspect they lost a lot of sales that way. I bought them, but covered the age bands.

And then, age-bands assume normal readers of that age.

Look, we're in the age of the Internet and smartphones and iPads. What's wrong with texting anxious arents look it up on the website?

Sue Bursztynski said...

Sorry, that's "letting anxious parents look it up"

Stroppy Author said...

"Slower readers will feel embarrassed about reading books with younger age-ranges on the cover"
I write for reluctant readers, for several different publishers, and the covers show a chronological age and a reading age. So the cover shows '12+' or whatever, and the image and title make it very obvious it is not for 8-year-olds, even if the reading age is 8. The labels about age are small, and not going to be spotted by peers who aren't looking for them.

Emma Barnes said...

Sue - hope you're not a "dying breed", it's clear the children in your school benefit so much from your expertise and dedication. Certainly an "endangered breed", though, and in UK primary schools there are currently no librarians pretty much, and I'd love to see that change with the Society of Authors campaign, but I'm pessimistic.

As to the idea of parents looking things up on the internet - the information is often not there either. For example, Greek mythology - I've been trying to work out online which books are best for different age groups and it would be so much easier if publishers were more explicit.

Debbie said...

As both a bookseller and a mum who chooses books for a 4 year old, I would love the publishing world to embrace age banding. It works in the toy industry and takes all the guess work out of things for parents. It is a guide after all, not set in stone. Who has time to figure out clues when buying a gift?? I loved your post Emma, will share it on our Facebook page, cheers Debbie