Is recommending books by age helpful?

So, today E read to her doll a lift-a-flap book, our lovely bookshop owner gave us as a present when she was born, then an adaptation of George’s Orwell Animal Farm, Piko and Lola and last Roald Dahl’s The Magic Finger with her dad. I can’t help but wonder how helpful are or aren’t age recommendations at the end of the day.

Are age recommendations really helpful?

I’ll start by admitting that I do check the back of a book for age recommendation before a purchase. Still, we purchase any book we fancy with my daughter no matter what the age recommendation are. Lately, we made a habit of collecting Arsène Lupin adventures from a newspaper because she found the cover book interesting. I’ll have to admit that I make use of age recommendations at my blog posts as well; yet, I let E browse at anything and I myself read her poems of Kiki Dimoula (while she destroys the CD of the collection), Pip and Posy or even extracts of a book for my exams.

Of course, age recommendations are useful. They are sort of a map when you are in a library, a book shop or just browsing on the internet. They act as a guide when you are out there looking for a present for a child or a teenager you don’t know that well. Undoubtedly, it also enhances access and it is convenient for both parents and children.

However, there is a noticeable trend, nowadays, for librarians to change the categories in children’s books sections and employ labels as picture books, accelerated readers, young adults among others instead of the traditional 3-6, 7-9, 11-13 etc. “Anything that puts a barrier between a child and a book is a problem,” said Tricia Adams, chair of the youth libraries group at Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals [1]. It seems that the same opinion have the librarians on the other side of the Atlantic. Members of their association underline that labeling practices can lead readers to prejudge books by their labels rather than by their content, thus creating entire “classes” of books that readers avoid or that parents or teachers deem to be off-limits to certain groups of students [2]. (Go on and read those articles at the resources yourselves, they really worth the time)

So, where does that leave us? I feel like keeping age recommendations at blog but we will continue buying whatever book without second thought, the same way I buy a pair of jeans while a shop assistant insists it is for younger women. Labels should stay in the price tag. It is comforting to see her in her reading nook playing a mum reading to her doll. After all, I use the blog as an excuse to read myself wonderful illustrated picture books I didn’t have when I was growing up.

George Orwell, Animal Farm. I told my daughter I have a precious memory of reading that book with her dad together. And she created an even more precious memory for me today

[1] https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/books/2008/oct/27/age-banding-childrens-books

[2] https://journals.ala.org/index.php/rusq/article/view/3859/4273

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