No to Age Banding

Back in April I wrote a piece about Project Age Range, the Publishers Association plan to start putting recommended reading ages on the covers of children’s books. This week’s Bookseller sees a full-page ad taken out by a collection of children’s writers, illustrators and publishers opposing this initiative. Sadly, I suspect it’s too little too late to stop the juggernaut rolling.

I was invited to a presentation about this a few weeks ago. Basically, it’s got nothing to do with children. The PA did some research where they asked adults who don’t often buy books if they were likely to buy more as presents if they came with age guides on them. While the adults claimed they would, it sounded unlikely to me that this would make any difference to overall book buying in the UK. What it will do instead is to restrict the number of people who end up reading a particular title.

The No to Age Banding ad declares:

We are all agreed that the proposal to put an age-guidance figure on books for children is ill-conceived, damaging to the interests of young readers, and highly unlikely, despite the claims made by those publishers promoting the scheme, to make the slightest difference to sales.

We take this step to disavow publicly any connection with such age-guidance figures, and to state our passionately-held conviction that everything about a book should seek to welcome readers in and not keep them out.

Top of the list of authors who’ve signed up is Philip Pullman, followed by four Children’s Laureates at places 2 to 5. If you’re prepared to count down that far, my name appears at position 101.

I’ve had so many comments about this, universally negative, but the one that struck the strongest chord read:

Please no! My daughter is dyslexic, and at age ten, was still essentially illiterate. She wants to read, but finds it very hard. Even now, at nearly thirteen, she reads comics – sometimes. Mostly she doesn’t at all. In Year 1 (5-6 ages) she told me she wanted to die so she could come back and go to nursery school again. Imagine how bad she would have felt if the books had age ranges showing her once again how behind she was educationally?

If you want to sign up against specifying reading ages on books, then go here.
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~ by keithmansfield on June 4, 2008.

3 Responses to “No to Age Banding”

  1. I’ve signed up! Nice one Keith

  2. Hey keith! have you read Darren Shan’s impassioned response to all this on the bookseller website – a few comments down.

  3. Another mention of this in this weekend’s Guardian:http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2285428,00.html . But Frank Cottrell Boyce thinks ‘the real disaster has already happened’: the demographic that is ‘Young Adult’. So much so he provokes with the comment ‘It’s the literary equivalent of the “kids’ menu” – something that says “please don’t bother the grown-ups”. If To Kill a Mockingbird were published today, that’s where it would be placed, among the chicken nuggets.’ A sobering thought…

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