Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More on Age-Banding

I was leaving a comment on this post at Cheryl's Mewsings, and, as I so often do, I got carried away. So I'm copying and pasting it here. I'm responding to someone named Roger Cornwell, who seems to be the Eminence grise behind the no-age-banding hysteria:

...the major supermarkets who want something easy for the shelf-stackers.
Yes -- they'd like to be able to sell books to people who want to buy books, in a place where people and books already are. Pardon me if I don't see that as a bad thing.

Helping people find books that they might like is good. Deliberately making it harder for those people to find books is bad. Try that one on for size.

The research did not involve talking to either librarians or teachers.
No, it apparently involved talking to people who buy books, as it should have. Librarians and teachers are not the primary decision-makers in this situation -- they're interested parties, but their voices should not be heard over those who are actually buying books.

Librarians and teachers are also gatekeepers, people with specialized knowledge -- of course they don't want to see the power of that knowledge lessened.

If you have a child who is behind on their reading, then you do not want to draw attention to this by having an indelible age rating printed on the book.
Because there are reading cops on every corner checking kids' reading material? I'd heard that the UK was turning into an Orwellian surveillance society, but I thought it hadn't quite gotten that bad.

This is just paranoia; surely the covers of books offer much greater scope for teasing, if teasing is to happen. Are you also calling for all books to be sold with identical, dark-colored covers with no type, so that no book can ever "call attention" to its reader?

Another group writing in has been parents of dyslexic children who are making the same point about stigmatising the slower reader, alongside parents of autistic children some of whom are reading years ahead of the norm for their age.
Let me paraphrase: some people are ahead, and others are behind, but everyone needs to appear to be exactly the same or else unspecified horrible things will happen.

How autocratic are you expecting this system to be? Are you truly worried that a 10-year-old will be forbidden to buy a book marked "Ages 6-9," or that a Greek chorus of taunting children will instantly appear the moment he does so?

Without the age banding on the back, children will be freer to read what’s right for them and, unless it’s a well-known book, their peers will have one fewer clue that they are reading something outside the usual fare for their age.
How are these children "freer" to find anything when they have less information? It seems to me that they'll be more likely to flail about, finding books too hard or too easy for themselves.

This whole campaign is ridiculously focused on the supposedly glass-fragile self-esteem of children reading books with numbers on them lower than their current age. If the kids of the UK are that emotionally fragile, they need a lot more than the lack of age-banding -- they need powerful medication and/or immediate hospitalization.

You also seem to be assuming that there will always be instantly available a wonderfully astute and vastly well-read bookseller/librarian, able to intuit precisely what book will be absolutely perfect for Wee L'il Gareth and place it into his little fist. That is simply not true -- kids, and the adults who buy and select books for them, will need to make their own decisions most of the time, and age-banding gives them another very useful piece of information to make that decision with.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The grocery I use is the largest chain in the DC area and they have only bestsellers and a revolving rack from Choice. I don't even look at the books there.

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