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Age Guidance on Children’s Books

Members may already be aware of the well-publicised opposition from many children’s authors and illustrators to the initiative of some publishers who plan to introduce age guidance on the back of some children’s books during 2008.

According to the Children’s Book Group (CBG) of the Publishers Association this development follows a ‘lengthy period of consultation and a series of research studies with booksellers (study commissioned from BML 2006), consumers (Acacia Avenue 2007), and children and their parents (CPI Solutions 2007)… The project follows up recommendations from BML’s ‘Expanding The Market’ report, commissioned for the book industry.’

Philip Pullman launched an appeal on 2nd June together with many other children’s authors, illustrators, librarians, parents, publishers and booksellers setting out their main anxieties about age guidance at www.notoagebanding.org. If you wish to sign up, you can do so by emailing signup@notoagebanding.org

Recent press coverage may have given readers the impression that there have been lengthy consultations with writers. The CBG was due to meet the Committee of the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group (CWIG) of the Society last November but that encounter was delayed until February 2008.

A meeting open to all members, planned for February, was postponed by the CBG until the end of April. This meeting turned out to be more of a briefing than a consultation, by which time the decision to introduce age guidance seemed to have been made. In anticipation of these meetings we invited members’ views, but received surprisingly few replies.

Martin Lee of Acacia Avenue presented his consumer research which looked at questions of accessibility and ways of getting more books into the hands of children whose families and friends were not regular book buyers. (You can view the PowerPoint presentation (without Martin’s comment and explanation) by clicking here or for more information visit www.publishers.org.uk/en/childrens/age_guidance/).

Not all authors are against age guidance. However, given the strong opposition that has emerged in recent days, we have proposed to the Publishers Association that the CBG’s plans should be put on hold, pending a review, which would include a number of authors. 

We have also asked that if any publishers decide to go ahead, in spite of the groundswell of criticism, they give age guidance only with the author’s agreement.

Publishers have promised to consult authors about the age indication to be given on their books. However, we have already heard one report of a writer learning about age guidance having been decided without any consultation. 

Authors and illustrators who are unhappy with the scheme are once again advised to contact their publishers to ensure that there are no similar oversights.

 

We would like to thank all members who have contacted the Society with their comments, both for and against age guidance on children’s books.

For further information or to email your comments, please get in touch with Anna Ganley at the Society. (aganley@societyofauthors.net).