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They want to put an age band on children's books! Right there, on the cover! No! We can't let this happen! Let's have some consumer Mumsnet power please

150 replies

ahundredtimes · 07/06/2008 15:33

I think it's such a BAD idea.

In fact I think it's such a BAD idea I can't believe it ever got out of the board room.

Do you?

If you do then you can write here and tell them so.

[sits down, holds placard, adjusts wooly hat]

OP posts:
SlightlyMadSweet · 08/06/2008 08:24

Actually I wouldn't mind some kind of age band wrt to content, in a manner similar to what you get on films etc. i.e. references to sex etc. should be indicated to parents.

A friend was recently reading a book to her 11 year old and she was shocked at the references to masturbation. The child had been reading this book independantly for some time.

Another friend commented that it was the parents responsibility to screen the boks her child was reading. This, however, is unfeasible for a avid 11yo reader who can go through volumes in a fortnight. A parent cannot pre-read every book.

I think it would be a positive thing to have a film style certificate rating....I can't tell whether that is (at least in part) relevant to this discussion. I I am guessing not, but not 100% sure from that link (particularly as that link will no doubt be biassed towards trying to get a ban, so highlighting the negatives IYSWIM).

I agree that an indication og "reading age" is not the best idea in the world though.....

EffiePerine · 08/06/2008 08:26

I htink most references to sex go right over the heads of younger children. I read all sorts of books while happily oblivious of much of the content.

(for years I thought the actors in Astrix and the Cauldron were shouting for 'oranges' (it was orgies))

SlightlyMadSweet · 08/06/2008 08:29

this reference was apparently very explicit and descriptive.

It may not have been understood that the reference was to something we aduts describe as masturbation....but there was no doubt let as to what the girl in the story was actuallly doing to herself and how it was making her feel.

Heated · 08/06/2008 08:32

The 'research' has asked adults who purchase the books. Books are already grouped onto age suggested bookshelves and there is plenty of advice on offer from staff, websites, recommendation guides the shops prublish, as well indications of suitability through the blurb and, shock horror, opening the book and scanning a few lines yourself.

What the 'research' into children's literature hasn't considered, is the children who read the books - the consumer!

Have already said why this is a poor idea for teenage readers but will be asking my pupils next week what they think of the idea.

FossilSister · 08/06/2008 08:41

I teach teenagers with reading diffculties and they would be mortified to be reading age 5-7.

There is already a drive to have more books written specifically for these kids with high interest level and low reading level. They'll read picture books or whatever - it's how you sell them, and we've had great times with Dr. Dog, Willy and Hugh and even Little Rabbit FooFoo, but can you imagine if they said age 3-5 on the cover?

Bookshops already group books in interest levels, as do books by post brochures. If adults want help choosing, ask the staff, or the librarian.

Mind you, having said all this, kids know who books are meant for, but you can soften the blow.

Shells · 08/06/2008 09:02

All these ways to help you choose a book have been around for years and people STILL FIND IT HARD.

The issue that this research is trying to address is that people don't buy or borrow books because they can't tell what age they're for. In the same way they want content blurb on the back, they want some help with age guidance. It doesn't seem that controversial to me.

Marina · 08/06/2008 09:25

I think the best way is to provide content indication, as sms says, and put it on as part of the blurb. I agree that glaring "suggested age" signs are counterproductive.
Using the Northern Lights Trilogy again, the first film has been given a PG rating and the shops are full of tie-in stuff clearly aimed at 5s and over. I can easily see a not very clued-up parent/book buyer assuming that the novels themselves are suitable for younger children. Effie - LOL at the oranges and yes Orm, I read The Woman Who Rode Away at nine and have also remained a life-long DHL avoider - but the scene where Tony dies is more the sort of thing that bothers me, as a parent.
Why the publishers did not consult more widely - and include children! - is beyond me really. I think this was potentially a good scheme gone badly wrong

fullmoonfiend · 08/06/2008 10:03

Whose idea is this?

with you all the way 100. I was an avid, precocious reader as a child and read everything and anything. I did not neccessarily uderatnd everything I read.

In a different vein, ds1 is dyslexic and sometimes reads books which would probably be banded as for a younger reader, which would immediately put him off reading them at all... He'd be mortified at school if a book he was enjoying had ''age 5-7'' branded on it.

Fecking nannyism at its worse.

ahundredtimes · 08/06/2008 10:09

I must admit that I do think that part of the joy of developing as a reader is that you do read things which are utterly unsuitable for you, or way over your head, and contain alarming sexual material.

It might shock the parent, but the child had presumably been quite happy reading it.

I'm largely against censoring material which children read. But that is me. I don't expect other people to be quite so, um, free in that regard.

Marina, I do understand what you are saying. But it is as someone else said, and as you acknowledged, all about the buying here and not about the reading.

And the reading is more important. If as a result someone buys a book which is inappropriate for a child it either gets put on the shelf until later, or tossed to one side. That's okay.

The reader is more important than the buyer in my opinion. Only this lot of readers aren't in a position to express it. Unless I get ds1 to write a letter of outrage to First News, of course.

OP posts:
fullmoonfiend · 08/06/2008 10:14

my ds has just expressed his feelings about the idea beautifully! Give us the address for First News, somebody!

jamila169 · 08/06/2008 15:45

'people don't buy or borrow books because they can't tell what age they're for'
I'd take issue with that, thinking about people i know who don't buy or borrow books, it's because they don't see the point of them. in my personal experience, if people are the type to buy books , then they'll try to buy something appropriate - if they're not sure then they'll buy somexthing they enjoyed at the same age

roisin · 08/06/2008 15:50

I still haven't found a complete news report on this. Which publishers are proposing introducing this new kind of labelling?

lljkk · 08/06/2008 16:11

I would love age banding for content, too (like movie ratings). I think that's all consumers need, since mostly content matches technical difficulty.

brightongirldownunder · 08/06/2008 16:18

I'm totally appalled by this, like margaretmountford I've been illustrating childrens books for over 15 years and although when given the text have an age group in mind, I would have hated any of my books to have an age slapped on them. Children vary in their reading abilities and, having several members of the family with severe dyslexia, this banding would only intimidate kids who struggle with text. I love walking into a bookstore and reading books for all ages without some bloody label ageing it for me. What will they do next? Put thirtysomething on Red magazine & OAP on womans weekly? Will parents be arrested for buying books too old for their kids? (ok a bit extreme, but hey the world's going that way)
Getting children to read is essential. categorising age bands is only going to put them off as it stops it being fun and makes it another regulated part of life. theyhave enough of this at school FFS
I remember reading the rude bits from "forever" by Judy Blume out loud to the rest of the class just before an RE lesson (I was 12), headmistress walks in and gives me detention for it and takes the book. Didn't put me off - went out and bought another one straight away.
I'm going to find out which publishers plan to do this and e-mail them directly as well as join the petition.
pah! Off to sooth teething babys gums...

Nighbynight · 08/06/2008 17:47

Abbey - do you get all your books at bookshops? I don't.

Marina · 08/06/2008 19:29

Roisin, all members of the Publishers' Association will theoretically be signatories to this
Scholastic have already given Philip Pullman a get-out at his request, I expect many others on the petition list are requesting similar.

Here is a fairly sensible librarian's view of the matter

AbbeyA · 08/06/2008 20:19

Nighbynight-Amazon already sort fiction into ages. I suggest that even if you buy it somewhere else you look it up first on Amazon.
If you Google a title you can get reviews from several different sources.
It is sheer laziness to say that the age has to be on the book.

Califrau · 08/06/2008 21:56

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Califrau · 08/06/2008 21:57

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

roisin · 08/06/2008 22:03

Thanks for that link Marina, that was very interesting.

I think the whole thing is very misguided. They are basing it on the difficulties of buying books as presents.

I am a passionate reader, and promoter of reading to children and teenagers - my own and at school. But I simply would not dream of buying a book for a child (aged 8+) unless I knew he/she specifically wanted that book, or unless I knew them extremely well.

PrettyCandles · 08/06/2008 22:13

Not only have I signed up, I've also forwarded the link to my book group.

What a preposterous notion!

brightongirldownunder · 09/06/2008 03:21

Shells, I appreciate what you're saying but clothes sizes are simply not the same as reading ages. And anyway, my DD is in smaller sizes than her age and that makes me panic!
Roisin is right = why would you buy a book for a child unless you knew them and their likes/dislikes? I'm fed up with having the controi taken away from us.
One thing that everyone needs to keep in mind is that small publishing houses are disappearing all the time. The childrens book market in general is struggling and we don't want it to go the same way as the music industry and have it all online. If kids are put off books by this we're going to lose so much talent.


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RosaLuxembourg · 09/06/2008 13:05

DD1 and I are both reading the Anne of Green Gables series together at the moment (well I've just finished and she is a couple of books behind me). I am 44. She is 10. We both think LM Montgomery rocks.
Not sure logistically how you are going to find suitable age bands for much non-formula fiction. Obviously a lot of children's fiction is commissioned with a particular age range in mind, but most of the really good stuff has an appeal that transcends marketing concepts like age bands.

MargaretMountford · 09/06/2008 13:35

Rosa...I used to re read the chapter where Matthew dies in A of GG - it scared me but I was very drawn to it - great book-would read again at my advanced age..(40 +) !

RosaLuxembourg · 09/06/2008 13:44

Margaret - Our recent find was Before Green Gables, a prequel which has just been written for the 100th anniversary of AoGG. The author has done a great job and it is SO enjoyable, DD1 and I loved it and it made me reread the whole series again.

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