During my trip to Edinburgh last month I visited the Banned Books exhibition at the National Library.
As this news report about Lady Chatterley’s Lover from 1960 goes to show, once a book has been banned, demand for it becomes much higher. We are naturally intrigued and fascinated by the controversial. In many ways this is similar to a child or teenager’s curiosity with subjects deemed only appropriate for adults. How many people can say that their 15 year old self didn’t always want to watch 18-rated films, simply because they weren’t allowed?
This is one of the issues I have with the idea of age-banding books for children. It soon becomes ‘uncool’ to be reading a book that is for your own age group or below. Children who struggle with books within their own band become disheartened and feel humiliated if they read a book for a lower age group. In no way does this encourage reading in young people.
‘Children easily feel stigmatized, and many will put aside books they might love because of the fear of being called babyish. Other children will feel dismayed that books of their ‘correct’ age-group are too challenging, and will be put off reading even more firmly than before.’
– From the website, http://www.notoagebanding.org/
Reading ability is completely unique to each child. Similarly, issues dealt with in young adult and children’s literature, such as divorce, anorexia and self-harm, cause different reactions in each reader. If there are concerns about the suitability of these books, surely a parent is better placed to decide? I’d also hope that, whilst many people are buying books online, parents could choose to consult sales assistants in bookshops, who should have a wide enough knowledge of their products to be able to give buyers advice and recommendations which are tailored to a particular reader.
The debate about age-banding began in 2008, when some publishing houses announced that they would indicate on book covers whether their books are suitable for 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ or 13+/teen. Since then a number of children’s authors, including Philip Pullman, J.K. Rowling and Michael Morpurgo, have spoken out against this practice.
Visit http://www.notoagebanding.org/ for more information, and please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!