Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Ages on books for the young

There's a scheme afoot among British publishers and the larger booksellers to include an age range on every book for children and young people.
This, of course, is a crass marketing ploy. The argument seems to be that adults buying books for the young want to know the age suitability of a book without either having to read it and make the judgement for themselves or asking a professional.
Needless to say, I'm against this scheme on educational and literary grounds and dissociate myself from it. Which is not to say that I can stop my publishers from going ahead and doing it if they want to. There's usually a clause in an author's contract with a publisher that gives the publisher the right to publicise and market the books in whatever way they think best.
The scheme has caused so much upset among authors, illustrators, and others interested in books for the young that a protest is being organised. A statement of objection can be signed by anyone who is against this retrograde move.
If you want to read the reasons for our objections, and to add your name to the growing list of those objecting, go to: http://www.notoagebanding.org/


Anonymous said...

Yes, it's curious how this apparently "commonsense" arises. A seemingly simple solution to to a tricky problem. I supoose at one level you might say, well, it will help to sell more books as people will buy with confidence. Tosh, of course, as age level in no way squares with reading level or reading interest.
And also the cautious minded younger child who feels uneasy about reading above their age level. Young children can be acutely self-conscious about not being out of step with their peers. And of course who is to say, for example, if Where the Wild Things is a book for a two year old or a ten year old (or forty six year old for that matter). Ah, commonsense.

It does, as you say, give the appearance of relieving adults of the need to have read or be in some way familiar with the work. What are they afraid of?
Mike (Australia)

Anonymous said...

Just checking memory against a few old books we have left from the time when publishers tried 'age-guidance' in the 1960's, here are three:
Philip Turner. The Grange at High Force. Oxford Univ Press 1965 09-013. - i.e. ages 9 to 13. This is on the dust jacket next to the price, a code intended mainly for teachers & librarians I think.
Barbara Willard's Harrow & Harvest from Kestrel, 1974, has 0012+ and finally Viking, New York in 1965 found the perfect guidance for Ezra Jack Keats's illustrated John Keats poem The Naughty Boy - 'all ages'.

In practice I found the guide sometimes a useful talking point with customers - if only to say 'ignore it'. I doubt it did much harm - maybe just a tipping factor when a decision is being made. Retired bookseller, UK