What’s the flap about? Seems publishers in the UK want to put fairly narrow age ranges onto their children’s books.  Librarians and many authors are opposed (read more here).  I am too, but for different reasons; here they are.

One of the strongest factors in encouraging reading in children is allowing them to choose their own books.  “No, Johnny, why don’t you get this one?” just is not an encouraging “conversation.” Think how it would feel to you, especially if you had just spent your time and energy on choosing that book and obviously come up with a reason to get it.  In my (strong) opinion, it doesn’t respect the child as a person.

But, you protest, what if it is “too hard?” Well, let Johnny find that out. It won’t take him long and then he will put it down and find another (hopefully, you brought home more than one book from the library). Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I believe the value of choosing outweighs the possibility of having to put it down for another (honest, the world will not stop spinning and he will not give up on reading because of it).

More importantly, what if it is above Johnny’s current reading level–but he really, really, really wants to read it?  Another essential key to reading is motivation.  And he’s got it, right then with that book, and not with the “easier” book.  He really may surprise you.  (I know several boys who have made the jump from Bob Books to Calvin and Hobbes based on this motivation factor).

He may also simply want to look at the pictures (even many middle reader books today have pictures). And pictures tell stories and pictures require the use of language to interpret–and pictures are fun (another key ingredient in growing as a reader).

Finally, if it is truly too hard, you can read it aloud to Johnny.  Yes, you the grown-up, read aloud to your eight year old, ten year old, twelve year old.  Reading aloud exposes children to vocabulary and sentence structure that they haven’t encountered yet.  But now that they have heard it, it will come easier to them when they do reach that level–and then the reading goes more smoothly and it’s more fun (there’s that word again)! It’s also incredibly encouraging and respectful to Johnny; it speaks volumes to how important he is to you and how important this reading thing is as well.

So yes, I’ll join the chorus against publishers, libraries, schools, and bookstores which narrowly categorize books by ages or reading levels. And I’ll encourage you once again to read aloud to your children, even throughout elementary school.

So what do you think?