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Age Guidance on Children's Books - What do you think?

(30 Posts)
HelenWaller Fri 07-Aug-09 13:39:12

Hi everyone
I was wondering if you could help me. I'm currently doing an MA dissertation on whether children's books should have age guidance on them and was hoping to get some mums who buy books for children to give me their opinions. It would be great if you could post any comments you have. For instance:
Do you think there should be age guidance on the back of all children's books?
Should age guidance be about the child's reading age or content suitability or both?
Would you buy more children's books if they had age guidance on the cover?
How easy or difficult do you find establishing what age a book is suitable for?
Are their any alternatives to age guidance?

Any comments would be much appreciated.



mopsyflopsy Fri 07-Aug-09 13:43:24

In Germany (where I buy a lot of books)children's books have an age recommendation, and I find it very useful (especially when buying online).

The recommended age refers the the CONTENT, as it is this what is relevant and applies to most kids of a certain age. (Reading ages, of course, vary immensly, so no point referring to these).

Films and movies have age recommendations too.

HelenWaller Fri 07-Aug-09 14:23:03

If you don't mind Could you also maybe tell me the ages of child you generally buy for, and perhaps how often you buy children's books.

(Thanks for your comments mopsyflopsy!)

Takver Fri 07-Aug-09 14:38:13

I would find it helpful - maybe just a very broad age band. Many of my old Puffin books say something inside the front cover along the lines of 'likely to be enjoyed by children age x to y' or 'likely to be first read by children age from x' which is pretty non-committal.

(Actually, to be fair, they usually say 'boys age x to y' or 'girls age from x', but I guess that was the 70s for you.)

My dd is age 7, she's a very keen reader but we mainly buy 2nd hand or borrow from the library.

TBH I doubt we would buy any more new books if they had an age guidance - making them longer, cheaper , and less shelves full of magic sparkly fairy puppy tat would have more effect grin.

I struggle to find interesting looking new fiction books that look as though they will stand many readings, even in large bookshops, other than the classics which we can easily buy 2nd hand. The multifarious series books (Animal Ark et al) we get from the library.

bruffin Mon 10-Aug-09 10:06:02

I think reading age is usually fairly obvious, but I would like to have had content suitability.

shigella92 Wed 12-Aug-09 15:06:06

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Yurtgirl Wed 12-Aug-09 15:16:47

I think "The incident of the dog in the nighttime" should have a guidance note on it, or have the swearing removed or not be pitched at children aged 9+ (Given a choice Id remove the swear words)

It sounds like a very interesting MA Helen - Cynical me is thinking it also sounds rather like a sneaky way of finding out our opinions for a newspaper article

But yes in principle I would like age guidance on children's books

pugsandseals Wed 12-Aug-09 18:46:00

I feel we need something- especially for the more prolific readers. My DD is 7 and I was horrified to find out how scared reading Matilda (Dahl) made her! Just some idea of suitability would be good as I hate the thought of having to vet/spoof-read anything before I let her near it. Apart from anything else, she reads so quickly that I would be having to read 2-3 books per day to keep up with her!

FlamingoBingo Wed 12-Aug-09 18:53:28

I don't want age guidance on books. I don't like age guidance on anything. I prefer to go on what my children are interested in and their own unique abilities. I understand that that can make things harder for relatives and friends who don't know my children so well to buy them presents, but they can always ask me what sort of thing I think they'd like.

Different things will scare or upset different children, and sometimes you just don't know what it'll be. Besides, I don't think we should censor things our children read because we think they'll find the content difficult to process. They need to be exposed to difficult things and have the people they love and trust help them learn to deal with it.

And people should go on reviews and word of mouth when it comes to knowing what children will like and cope with, rather than a bland and shallow number on the back of the book.

sanae Wed 12-Aug-09 19:39:40

I don't like the idea. Imagine you have a child who struggles to read - it's going to put them off reading even more if they are seen reading books labelled as suitable for children below their actual age. Also agree with Flamingo's points.

giantkatestacks Wed 12-Aug-09 19:44:53

I dont think we need an age guidance for content - mostly theres only swearing and content related difficult in the 'teenage' books anyway.

I think we all coped fine being let loose in a library without supervision and how has that situation changed in the last 30 years?

Imagine that excitement being lost of reading a Judy Blume or a Robert Westall that was slightly too old for you.

Anything putting children off reading is unwanted - those dcs that are interested in reading content that is too old for them are not the ones we have to be concerned about tbh.

Arewenearlythereyet2009 Thu 13-Aug-09 11:25:23

I think age guidelines are just that; guidelines! They are there to help and advise and guide. I think they can be very helpful at finding suitable material

pugsandseals Fri 14-Aug-09 11:49:15

How about linking t national curriculum levels instead then? Children all seem to know what level they're at anyway, & it would help parents with children reading beyong age avoid inappropriate topics- my 7 year old could easily read teenage books & with their girly covers it would be easy to find her reading about sex & other totally inappropriate things!

bruffin Fri 14-Aug-09 12:01:46

There is a world of difference between a 7 year old and 11 year old which is the age range for ks2.

My DD is 11 and just left primary and has been reading teenage books for the last year or so. The content of these definitely wouldn't be suitable for a 7 yr old

giantkatestacks Fri 14-Aug-09 12:05:52

But how has this situation changed all of a sudden from when we were 7? In the library the sections are clearly delineated anyway arent they, in fact ours has moved the teenage section to a completely different area near the music and dvds.

I am thinking that at home I am going to have a problem once my dcs start on my own books but not with the books outside the house iyswim.

bruffin Fri 14-Aug-09 14:09:38

I don't think there is much difference for 7 year olds but I think there can be a bit of a problem for older books
Ie The Cherub series which really is a teenage set, but in some book shops they are put in the 9+ and in others in the teenage section. The books themselves say something like "not for younger readers" or "older readers only" can't remember which.
Also I buy a lot of books on the internet and it is a lot harder to judge their suitablility just by the cover and the blurb.
The Book People allows you to search by age range which is helpful.

lljkk Sun 16-Aug-09 10:32:24

I would love two age guides:
one for technical difficulty, this could be done with letters or NC levels rather than ages;
and a second one for content suitability.

They should both be published as age+ numbers, eg, Astrosurs would be suitable for ages
Content: 3yrs+
Technical skill: Level 1a+ (or whatever).

No uppper limit to the suitability, that's my only gut feeling, or it would lead to teasing. And ideally the suitability should be on the inside cover, not easily spotted by sneering older children on the outside.

nymphadora Sun 16-Aug-09 10:36:23

My dd1 is into Jaqueline Wilson and some are suitable for her (10) and some are more teenagers books. I would appreciate something to distinguish between them.

WidowWadman Sun 16-Aug-09 10:39:06

My opinion in a nut shell can be found here:

I read a lot of books which would probably considered 'too grown-up' from very young and at the same time still love reading childrenÄ's books now that I am grown up.

Children develop at different paces and so do their reading paces. Age banding is unhelpful and serves both to hold back kids who'd read an 'older' book otherwise and embarass children who are at a 'younger' level, so they might stop picking books up altogether for fear of being ridiculed.

GrimmaTheNome Sun 16-Aug-09 10:44:53

I find the age suggestions you get from the various book clubs and online useful guides when looking at books I don't know myself. You can decide for yourself if your child fits her chronological age band or not.

I don't think each individual book needs designating. That could put kids off.

Campaspe Sun 16-Aug-09 19:14:42

Must admit that I'm not keen. This is because my DD - aged 2.10 - really varies in what she wants me to read to her, so I would never opt for books recommended for 2 year olds only. For example, sometimes we read very short poems by, say, Shakespeare or Rosetti. Other times, she only wants a baby book along the lines of "That's not my X..". I think all children vary so much, not only in their ability, but in their mood and inclination. Sometimes you want the gourmet feast, other times only a Big Mac will hit the spot...

nymphadora Sun 16-Aug-09 19:53:07

Possibly age brackets like films? Mainly for over 12s etc? So if they contain swearing or sex you can be aware

Polgara2 Sun 16-Aug-09 20:22:49

Hmm well I think some sort of guideline about the content of the book would be helpful. You can't always tell just from the blurb and the first few pages. I have had to take a couple of books off dd1 (who is a prolific reader and very hard to keep up with!) in the past when they looked ok on the above criteria but actually turned out to have hugely inappropriate language or situations somewhere further on! I now have to resort to speed reading them myself which means she has to wait a bit longer for that new book she is itching to read.

Polgara2 Sun 16-Aug-09 20:24:03

Although I did notice yesterday that Red House had some warnings about the contents of some of their books which was good.

pugsandseals Mon 17-Aug-09 12:15:04

I love your idea & it would really help those of us with children whose ability often outranks their understanding!

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