Age guidance prompts author rebellion

<p>An unprecedented rebellion by leading children&#39;s authors has seen them band together to place a full page ad in this week&#39;s<em> Bookseller</em> opposing publishers&#39; introduction of age guidance. Led by Philip Pullman, and including children&rsquo;s laureate Michael Rosen, Michael Morpurgo and David Almond, over 80 authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers and booksellers will publish a statement in this Friday&#39;s<em> Bookseller</em> opposing the initiative and disassociating themselves from age guidance.</p><p>The authors&#39; statement describes the proposal as &quot;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&quot;. Pullman told <em>The Bookseller</em>: &quot;Many writers felt as if we&#39;d been presented with a fait accompli, and there was a certain amount of anger expressed. The question was what to do about it. We decided that the best way forward was simply to say publicly &#39;Not in our name&#39;.&quot;</p><p>In the statement the authors outline a number of reasons why age-ranging is damaging: it will discourage children from reading outside their age band; it is over-prescriptive; and it is unnecessary in that there are plenty of clues on books as to their target reader. &quot;To tell a story as well and inclusively as possible, and then find someone at the door turning readers away, is contrary to everything we value about books, and reading, and literature itself,&quot; it says.<br /> <br />A website, at <a href="http://www.notoagebanding.org" target="_blank">www.notoagebanding.org</a>, outlines the authors&rsquo; position and invites those who are opposed to age guidance to sign up and &ldquo;disavow publicly&rdquo; any connection with age guidance figures. Those who have signed include Terry Pratchett and Anne Fine.<br /> <br />Pullman said: &quot;We are not in a position to dictate anything and I wouldn&rsquo;t want to tell publishers how to run their business, but if one of my books is published with an age range, I&rsquo;m dissociating myself from it, it is nothing to do with me.&quot;</p><p>The decision to introduce age guidance was taken in April by the vast majority of children&#39;s publishers, including Hachette, Penguin, Random House, Scholastic and HarperCollins. They will implement the system from this autumn, starting it on black and white fiction and eventually rolling it out to all children&#39;s categories. It will see a black and white design placed on the back of the books, near the bar code, with the categories of 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ and 13+/teen.<br /><br />It follows almost three years of debate and consultation led by the Publishers Association&#39;s Children&#39;s Book Group. Research conducted in autumn 2006 by Acacia Avenue revealed that 86% of book buyers would back the plans for guidance on books, with 40% saying that they would be more likely to buy more books if they featured guidance.<br /><br />Authors and illustrators have complained of a lack of consultation over the planned introduction of age guidance. &quot;I didn&#39;t hear about this survey at all until after it was done,&quot; said Pullman. &quot;I would have thought it only common sense to ask writers what they thought about it. Nor have I seen the research findings.&quot;</p><p><em>Updated, 3rd June, 12.30pm&nbsp;</em></p>