Thursday 23 October 2014

"Why we can't help pigeonholing books" - A ReadItDaddy Editorial

I doubt even pigeons really like living in tiny little compartmentalised holes...
It's never really 'sat' well with me that so many things are neatly categorised, compartmentalised - or for want of a better word pigeonholed. In the world of books, this sort of thing is widespread and though there's a fair justification for ensuring that age inappropriate stuff doesn't get into children's hands, there's one aspect of this that impacts this humble book blog more than any other.

"Why don't you show age ratings against your book reviews?"

It's a fair question, and it was something that was initially planned when we kicked this whole thing off in 2010 when Charlotte was 2. Back then, we read and enjoyed a whole range of children's picture books from the extremely simple but effective board and baby books, right through to books that Charlotte still enjoys regularly today. 

Age ratings on books fall into a few categories. They can be applied by the publisher, or the marketing team, even by bigger and better book reviewing folk than ourselves or perhaps by various awards agencies, book trusts and collectives. 

Books don't have the same system as movies or games (understandably) and as children get older, you can understand that some folk might want tighter controls over the sort of books children are exposed to (for instance, would you feel comfortable about your 12 year old reading certain YA novels that are more adult in scope and nature?)

I remember reading James Herbert books as a wayward 12 year old simply because no one told me I couldn't (and of course reading "The Rats" as an impressionable pre-teen was a bit of an eye-opener to say the least). That's not to say that I would approve of a ratings system that slapped a big fat "15" on the cover (or back cover) of your favourite reading material. 

So I guess the question to raise is "should we age-rate books or issue our own guidance ratings?" - We could but then are we authoritative enough to do so? After all, Charlotte's own reading tastes swing wildly from lift the flap and board books (if they're entertaining enough for her) right through to things that she would probably be ideally reading in a year or two's time (not YA of course but she's itching to get cracking on the Harry Potter books and I'm not sure I could comfortably let her loose on the later ones).  If we did so we'd have to attach all sorts of caveats to our recommendations so would there really be any point?

It's a topic ripe for debate - and if you do have any views, I would dearly welcome a comment or two below.