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52 weeks, 52 things

Short but relevant post

A quick post before I head to the station and to Cardiff.

Last week BBC Breakfast News ran an item on a plan by publishers to introduce age-banding of children’s books. In the Guardian this weekend, Philip Pullman wrote a spirited attack on the idea, and a website was set up, notoagebanding, attracting at the last count, over 1100 signatures of support.

Now in no way am I telling you what to think (thinking being something that publishers appear to believe is a bad thing and should be circumvented by shiny stickers telling what you and can’t read), but as I’ve mentioned before, reading is something that came naturally to me, and when I was a child, I read voraciously. I read hard SF well before I would have been allowed to by an age sticker, and I read ‘proper’ literature when I couldn’t get hold of the stuff I really wanted to read. It was all words, and words were good. When I was a teenager, Gene Wolfe made me buy a dictionary in order to read the Book of the New Sun, and words and phrases that seemed hard became less so.

That’s how it worked for me, and that’s how I’d like to think it worked for other people too.

That’s not how it works if we start to filter children’s reading with stickers telling them what they can and can’t read. Or, more precisely, telling their parents what they can and can’t read. A child will tell you what they can read, and more often than not, will ask for something more difficult when they’re done.

Notoagebanding’s manifesto reads as follows:

We are writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers, publishers and booksellers. Some of us have a measure of control over what appears on the covers of their books; others have less.

But we are all agreed that the proposal to put an age-guidance figure on books for children is ill-conceived, damaging to the interests of young readers, and highly unlikely, despite the claims made by those publishers promoting the scheme, to make the slightest difference to sales.

We take this step to disavow publicly any connection with such age-guidance figures, and to state our passionately-held conviction that everything about a book should seek to welcome readers in and not keep them out.

I’ll sign my name to that.

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