Thursday, June 12, 2008

Age Banding Books

What do you think about age banding children's books? If you're not familiar with it, check out this article. Basically, publishers want to label books 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+, and 13+/teen to help guide parents towards appropriate books for their children.  

I'm kind of crossed about age banding. As a parent, I fully understand the need to know what books are appropriate, but the anti-censor in my brain is screaming, who is going to make the decision on what's considered appropriate? On the other hand, I constantly find myself babbling to parents of girls under 11 years old who try to buy my book at tournaments, that SCREWBALL is YA and contains some high school stuff. Age banding would halt my constant babbling. But, I would never want to stop a child from reading. Urgh..

What do you think? Do you support age banding or are you against age banding, like these folks?

SCREWBALL NEWS: I'm so excited. This weekend, I'm going to meet my publisher for the first time face to face. :) We'll be selling and signing SCREWBALL at the Blast at the Beach tournament in Salisbury, Maryland. Have a great weekend!


Kelly Parra said...

I kind of go both ways on the topic since I'm a Mom and wouldn't want my 8 year old reading something too dark or edgy, but at the same time every reader is at different levels and experience.

Tough call!

Good luck with your meet and sign!

PJ Hoover said...

Have a great time with your publisher.
As for age banding, kids are reading so far above their age right now, I, as a parent, wouldn't at least mind a head's up if there is questionable content. Then I can make my own decision. But take Flowers in the Attic. I read it when I was like 11 or something. Appropriate for an eleven year old. I don't think so. But my mom let me read it because she had no idea what was in it and because she was so happy I could read such a long book and wanted to read.

Angela said...

As long as there are no small parts that could harm children under the age of 3, I see no reason. Really!

beth said...

I'm against age branding--I think it limits what kids may read, and it's a bit stupid. Look at how ineffective movie ratings are. Kids go to whatever movie they want (usually). As an adult that reads YA, I might feel stupid if there was a big sticker announcing I was too old to read a really frustrates me!

And have a great time with your publisher...I wish I could do the same thing! I'm totally jealous.

keri mikulski :) said...

Hi, Kelly - Me too.. Thanks.

Hi, PJ - Thanks. It's a tough call.

Hi, Angela - Good point. :)

Hi, Beth - That's also a good point. What about readers who are reading books that are too young for them. Thanks.. :)

Caryn said...

The funny thing is that books are already categorized by age in review journals and often in bookstores and libraries. Even the books themselves often have ages. And when people can't find age levels listed, they'll go by the main characters' ages or the way the cover looks or the story premise. So whether it's official or not, it does still happen. And as long as they still let kids read books that are marked for older kids and adults, I don't think there's a big issue there. And librarians are a fierce bunch who are partly responsible for the strength of the first amendment; if they tried to ban kids from reading books intended for older audiences, the American Library Association would have it squashed in an instant.

keri mikulski :) said...

Hi, Caryn - Great points and so true about librarians. :)

mimi said...

I can see why parents--lazy ones, methinks--would want the banding. Much less actual thinking has to occur. But since I was a reader who was *way* above my age band, banding would have been no help for either of my parents.

The information's already out there. Truly concerned parents can already check it out, if they'll take the time. I think banding will be more limiting than freeing. One family's 11 YO is another family's 8, if you can judge by the number of folks who buy M-rated "Halo" and "Grand Theft Auto" for their preteen boys or take their elementary school age daughters to R-rated movies full of inappropriate sex and violence. The bands can't take the place of actual research. I say no bands.

Trish Ryan said...

It's tough to say. I'm not a parent, so I'm not qualified to weigh in. My guess is that it's about knowing your own child and maybe doing some pre-reading?

I know there was one mom at a reading for my book who bought it for her young daughter and I sincerely hope she pre-read it!

keri mikulski :) said...

Hi, Mimi - Great points. I never thought about the movie and video game angle.

Hi, Trish - Yikes. Yes, definitely some pre reading. :)

Brooke Taylor said...

Tough call. But I guess I would hope parents read what their children will. I know my book has lots of older content, I also think reading and discussing the content would be a great opportunity for parents to start a dialog about the daily or not so daily issues kids and teens face. I think if there is a band with an age range, parents would get lazy.

Great discussion topic!!

Sara Hantz said...

It's a tricky one. I sort of can see both sides.

Enjoy meeting your publisher.... very exciting

NPF NATION said...

I personally don't want age limits on books. Some kids are more advanced in reading and others not so much. I feel it's putting limits on the books, and yes, who's to say what's age appropriate for a certain age? It should be left to the parents.


keri mikulski :) said...

Hi, Brooke - I agree. :)

Hi, Sara - Thanks. We had a blast.

Hi, NPF Nation - Good point. :)

TJ Brown said...

I hope you had a wonderful time! And I am not sure banding is helpful. Kids read above their age and what is appropriate for one child and fmaily isn't for another, you know what I mean?

keri mikulski :) said...

Hi, Teri - Absolutely! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm totally for it and have been for a long time! Why wouldn't parents want to know if their kids are reading stories with sex, drugs, violence, ect. It's crazy (no offense) to say it would "limit" children's reading experience- it's protecting them from mature topics that they shouldn't be looking into until closer to adulthood. I know there are resources out there for parents, but a lot of times they deal solely with younger children's book through young teen reading genres and pass by the older YA sections. It's also not fair to call parents lazy for not being able to pre-read EVERY one of their teenager's books. I think this has been mentioned before- but all other kinds of media are required to have a rating (video games, movies...), so why shouldn't books have rating system too- even ones for adults?

keri mikulski :) said...

Hi, Anoymous! Good points.. And well stated - especially the part about warnings on movies, television, and music. By no means are parents lazy for not pre-reading every single book. What happens if you have more then one child or one child is a serious reader? Yikes.

I used to tell my student's parents if they had a question about content to email me (the teacher) and I would answer their questions about the book.. Or ask a librarian.