Saturday, December 05, 2009

Age guidance

My 10 years as a bookseller , 40 as a teacher, 35 as a mother and 60 as a bibliophile give me the right to have an informed opinion about the Publishers Association's idea , also they say informed , and researched, to embed Age Guildance on the cover of Books marketed for Children.
I can see the future
  • 10 yr old children will be guilt ridden for reading Owl Babies for 5 yr olds (   ISBN-10: 0744531675)
  • 3 yr olds will have inflated egos because they know Old MacDonald Had  a Farm (ISBN-10: 0859536629) by heart when it is for 4 yr olds
  • 12 yr olds will not dare read Cops and Robbers (Allen Ahlberg)  ISBN-10: 0140565841
  • The North/South Divide  will be replaced by those who have read Shadowmancer and those who have read Wormwood 
  • 8 year olds will be putting brown paper covers on 'How I live now'
  • Teenagers will be re-catagorized into sub groups
  1. Teenage single Mums
  2. D I N KY s under 20 in own flat 
  3. DINKY s under 20 living with her Mum
  4. Earnest Oxbridge  Hopefuls
  5. Oxbridge Hopefuls
  6. Earnest Gap year to Asia 
  7. Earnest Gap year to Australia
  8. Earnest Gap year going to work in Next for a year
  9. Gap Year
  10. 18 yr old  at College doing Media Studies
  11. 18 yr old at College doing Bricklaying
  12. 18 yr old at College doing nothing
  13. Young Sun readers
  14. Underclass
  15. 14 yr old gang group member hanging around Mills Metro every evening
  16. 15 yr old gang     group member hanging around Filey Bus Station every evening
  17. 16-18 yr old young people with Saturday jobs, still living at home, going to football/Sea Scouts
  18. 13-16 yr old young people doing their homework and looking forward to being a Lifeguard on Filey Beach in the Summer as soon as they are old enough
  19. Young musicians  who  hope their band will become famous
  20. 10-12 yr olds who look 15

 I can imagine all the Shelf talkers and dumpbins  Wrays will have to get . I can envisage the Data bases with their fields increased a hundred fold as books are re grouped and written.  There will be Childcare for teenage Mums (Aged 16), Childcare for Young Mums in their own flats(Aged 18), Vampire novels for 13 yr olds, Vampire Novels  for 14 yr olds Vampire Novels for Parents, It will be a logistics nightmare.

When I was teaching 8/9 yr olds in Battersea in 1968 I read  the class 'The Magicians Nephew' and 'The Lion the witch and the wardrobe' (C S Lewis) and a mixed ability class had little  difficulty understanding the language. I read 'Danny Fox'(David Thomson) to 5yr olds in Surrey in 1987, 'Danny Champion of the world'(Roald Dahl) to 10yr olds , 'The Hobbit ' (Tolkien) and 'The Horse and his boy'(CS Lewis) to 8yr olds in Wimbledon in 1970. I read 'Silly Verse for kids' (Spike Milligan) to every child I ever taught, also 'He wishes for the clothes of Heaven '(Yeats) and most of the poems in Verse and Worse, (ed Silcock).
When I taught yr 6  in 2005-7 in Bridlington they could not understand the language of the Hobbit, or C S Lewis. My (Bright) English set enjoyed the Lemony Snicket novels. My 8yr old class in 2003 enjoyed Danny Fox, and my Special needs children aged 11 (Behavioural difficulties) lapped up Ahlbergs 'Cops and Robbers(over and over again), and 'Fantastic Mr Fox ' has been enjoyed by all age groups.
There is no such thing as the right age to read a book. A child alone will try a book and read on if they like it. A class group need something pitched  at the Group , but I have never believed that pitching at the less able learners gave the best' value ' to the group.   We  read Eothen by Kingslake , and A tale of two Cities aged 11, I don't think that would happen in yr 7 now, but I like to think Alex Rider Novels, Michael Morpurgo, Malorie Blackman, Paul Gallicos 'Snow Goose' would at least be interesting , and they may be read mostly between the ages of 8 and 14, but I would never put an age on them.
I read all the Steinbeck Novels when I was a teenager (13-16), I read them all again (21-25) , I am reading them again (63) . I get a different joy each time.
I think everyone should read 'Cold Comfort farm '. I finished it last night at about midnight. I simply could not put it down. I realised that when I read it last (when I was about 15) although I loved the story, most of the 'send ups' were lost on me. Similarly I love reading what children are reading . Chris our Filey Librarian keeps me informed. My son,has discovered the joys of reading in the last few years. His told me to read  Larklight. I loved it so much, and yet it is in the Childrens section of my local large Bookstore.My son is 31.
It has always been OK for children to Access 'Adult 'Non Fiction  '. Sometimes I prefer the Non fiction from the Childrens Section. The catagories Adult and Children will do for me.
Where I will put the graphic Novel of Franz Kafka's 'The Trial ' I know not, probably put a brown paper cover on it or hide it at the back of a shelf somewhere, as I do with books I don't want anyone to read! Everyone should at least look at the Graphic Novels  , and the Manga  comic books. Are they for adults? Are they for Children? I will promote anything that popularises the written word,of FICTION  which is for EVERYONE . I even think we should all have a copy of the Manga Bible, Ive given mine away already, must get another one.

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