Wednesday, December 19, 2007

From The Times
Publishers to put age guide on children’s book covers

Publishers are preparing to put reading age guidelines on the covers of all children’s books in an important breakthrough for children’s literacy.
Some of the main companies in the children’s book market have made the decision after two years of consultation with parents, young readers and literacy experts. The information will appear as a recommended age band.

The rest of the industry is expected to follow suit and the bands, which categorise books by reading age as Early (for five years plus), Developing (7 plus) Confident (9 plus) and Fluent, could become industry standards next year. The scheme would bring books into line with toys, DVDs and video games, which all carry age guidelines.

Research suggests that many adults who want to buy children books do not know which are suitable. Studies have also revealed that one in five 11-year-olds leaves primary school unable to read to the minimum standard and one in six leaves school without functional literacy or numeracy skills.

Publishing industry politics has hampered the adoption of a standard system of bands, but the involvement of Amanda Ross, the television executive who created the Richard and Judy Book Club, has accelerated the process.

Ms Ross took up the cause of child literacy while working on Channel 4’s Lost for Words campaign in October. A Richard and Judy Children’s Book Clubspecial, part of the week-long series of programmes, divided its books into the four bands now proposed.
Ms Ross was at Downing Street yesterday with the authors Joanna Trollope, Kate Mosse, Tony Parsons and Sophie Kinsella to present a petition to the Prime Minister calling for action to combat child illiteracy. More than 500 writers signed the petition.

The idea of banding has suffered from what proved to be a false perception in the book trade that older children would be discouraged from reading a book that had a reading age on it, Ms Ross said.
Amanda Craig, the children’s books critic for The Times, said: “Anything that helps parents to choose books for their children is a good thing.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I applaud anything that encourages children to read I am very concerned about putting reading ages on books. A good reader will read up and down, just as adults read something light and then a major literary work.

In the last very busy days before Christmas I have solicited comments from people very involved with children and books - teachers, librarians and specialist book sellers. I intend to do more after our holidays. Christmas and summer clash down here!

Here are some comments to date

"we put encouraging labels on our shelves - Easy Read, Fun Read etc"

"restricting librarians in schools from buying beyond a certain age group when they have kids able to read and comprehend the concepts - principals who say no - stick with "age guidelines"

"stopping children and adults looking/buying beyond guidelines and therefore missing out on wonderful books."

"who decides reading age guidelines - is it chronological age or reading age ability because the two are not the same

"one publisher already has a lexil system operating on their books - some teachers take this literally and in one case stopped a child from reading a series of books, which he was romping through because half way through the lexile level changed".

Please do not put a straight jacket on books. Think of the eleven year old who has finally read a Captain Underpants book. Would he have read this book if it had "developing" or an age level firmly attached.

Already parents are restricting children to their tested reading age and not allowing them to graze widely through the bookshelves. Lets not put pressure on children and possibly turn them off reading.

Happy Christmas

Sheila Sinclair

The Childrens's Bookshop
Christchurch and Auckland.