Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions

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Age Banding Silliness

Despite the many, many good arguments not to, the big boys in the publishing industry seem to be hellbent on age branding children’s fiction. This jaw-droppingly stupid notion posits that parents need assistance in choosing an appropriate book for their children to read, and that the only way to do this is to categorise books into tiny one or two year age bands.

Think about that for a second. Think about what books you were reading at the age of, say, eight. What were the others in your class reading? The same books? I doubt it. Some kids read early, and are hitting advanced reading at a young age. Some kids take longer to get into it. The book that you were reading aged eight, the person next to you might not have been ready for until they were ten. Somebody else might already have read and enjoyed it when they were six.

It seems the most ridiculous thing to have to point out to somebody, let alone to supposed experts in the publishing of children’s stories, but children are all different from one another. Honestly, they are. I was a pretty advanced reader, thanks to my mum getting me on the road early. I read and fell in love with The Lord of the Rings when I was eleven, but at the same time was still fond of my Famous Five collection. Nobody in their right mind would ‘age brand’ those two book series in such a way that the spines would suggest that an eleven year old would get equal pleasure from each.

Here’s a thought exercise. Which two year age group should read and enjoy the Harry Potter books? Only those in that two year band are allowed to read them, and nobody else. What do you think? 7 – 9? 11 – 13? 15 – 17. I enjoyed the hell out of the books, between the ages of 27 – 32…

Age banding is going to stigmatise reading, that’s my fear. Let’s say you’re eleven years old, but a little behind with your reading. You might read and enjoy the books in the 7 – 9 band, if it was worth the hassle you’d get for being seen with them on the bus, nice clear age banding on the spine. But it isn’t, so you don’t. Kids work that way. Even adults aren’t immune from it.

Books find their readers. Readers find their books. Everybody else just needs to stand back and make sure there are as few barriers as possible between the two. Publishers don’t get this. Readers, writers, parents, psychologists, teachers, librarians, and other invested parties seem to though. If you agree with us, stick your name down. Despite finding few people to cheer them on, publishers are pushing this through anyway, with only those authors with enough clout to put their foot down able to stop their own books falling prey to the divisive little ploys of idiot marketing men. Might as well let them know that we think they’re idiots though, eh?

Or have we complainers got it wrong? Am I missing something? Let me know in the comments, if you think so…

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5 Comments

  1. AnonymousJune 16, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Amen amen amen!! Never underestimate the mind of children. I was reading at the age of 5 and I couldn’t get enough, glad they didn’t dumb it down for me. We should be trying to expand minds not limit them!

  2. LorrieJune 16, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Sorry that last comment was me heh heh

  3. markJune 17, 2008 at 8:02 am

    I fully agree that the current system is rubbish. I have just read my 6 year old (Milo) The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents which he loved (I doubt he got everything out of it but I am equally sure we will be going back to it at some point in the future). This book is down as 9-12 in the bookshops and like wise Milo also loved the (what was for him second time) reading of the Faraway tree earlier in the year when I read it for Gabriel (who is just coming up to 4).

    On the other hand without reading all of the books first it can be hard to judge and I am finding that my memory of books is sometimes not as useful as I thought because I read a lot of these books when I did not have children. The thing I sometimes find useful are the amazon reviews – where people mention the age of their children and other things they have liked.

    Perhaps the real solution would be a parents site with links for books and reviews based on their childrens reactions…

  4. Dan LaurikietisJune 17, 2008 at 9:19 am

    It’s absolute bollocks is what it is!

    A good book is a good book.

  5. Richard WrightJune 17, 2008 at 7:06 pmAuthor

    It’s probably meant well. I can see how some publishers in ivory towers might think that they’re being very helpful, in a profit-boosting sort of way. Parents seeking out a bit of info, be it through reviews, Amazon, websites, and so on, is the best way, I think. Harder than just being told what to do, I accept, but in some ways that’s what parents are for. Isn’t it?

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