Age ranges on book covers

As the Daily Telegraph reports, British children’s book authors, led by Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass) are protesting a decision to publishers to begin putting suggested age ranges for children’s books on their covers. You’ll find their petition here.

On the one side, you have authors defending the rights of children to read whatever they feel ready for. Historically, children’s librarians have believed that children tend to put down the books they aren’t ready for, so it’s a self-sorting process. There’s also a sort of defence mechanism that kicks in and lets the material that they aren’t ready for go right over their heads.

Young Adult author Meg Rosoff (How I Live Now) writes on her blog why she thinks that’s unfair to the parents who have no idea what to choose for their children.

Sadly, both sides discuss the issue in terms of bookstore staff, and whether they will be able to help select books. Neither side highlights how helpful a good children’s librarian can be. It’s probably an opportunity for us to remind the world of why we’re here! We know better than anyone how overwhelming it can be to choose the right book out of not just the books currently available in a bookstore but also the books that were published over the past 50 years. The profession spends a lot of time these days helping get kids ready to read, but we need to not lose sight of making sure we provide a lot of help in helping with the tricky task of matching books to readers later on.

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