Magic Bookshelf Online

Exploring the Children’s Reading World with Parents and Educators – magicbookshelfonline.com

Kids’ book age guidelines Part II: Reading between the lines September 30, 2008

The trend in children’s book publishing — more specifically, marketing — is to label each title with an age or grade guideline for which the book is supposedly appropriate. And yesterday I described, with the help of likeminded sources, why it not only doesn’t help, but actually hinders, efforts to put a good book in the hands of the right child.

Drawing on the chapter of my book devoted to this topic, I gave my secret formula for finding the best books for children. Here it is again:

The most important question is not, “How old is my child?” but “What is my child’s reading ability?” Also factor in maturity and interest levels, and there you have it.

  • If your child is a superior reader, you’ll need to ask yourself, “Is the material presented in the book still appropriate?” You have to temper an advanced reader’s zeal for “big books” with a sense for her maturity level. (I’ll use a blog subject from last week as an example. An avid child reader who devours L. Frank Baum’s Oz books (see fantasy novel section) will not be ready for Wicked (Reader Picks) until she’s practically a grown-up, even if she can read the sophisticated language of Gregory Maguire’s highly imaginative parallel novel. Am I age labeling here? Well, given the explicit sexual situations and satirical nature of this very well written fantasy novel, I’m just saying Wicked is written for adults or quite mature older teens who can handle such subjects. 
  • Follow these questions by asking which books will allow your child to stretch his ability and enrich his thinking processes.
  • A quick scan of the first chapter or two of potential book choices gives the best indicator of the level on which the book is written — not the age guideline on the book jacket.
  • Gauge interest level above all, even over skill. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if a child can read something well if she doesn’t relate to the book. Strong interest in and enjoyment of the material are the only ways to cultivate a dedicated reader.
  • A boy who loves cars will likely be interested in a well presented book about cars, even if it happens to be a level or two below that designated for his age. It’s the subject matter he seeks. What a shame for him to be reluctant or embarrassed to pick it up because of artificially imposed reading levels.

My younger son Thomas, now 9, has always been a very accomplished — and rather competitive — reader, tackling chapter books way back when he was still expected to still be in the picture book phase. As I also describe in The New Magic Bookshelf, I feel it’s a shame to rush past the treasures to be found in the picture book genre for the sake of earning Accelerated Reader, peer prestige, or other bonus points by moving on too quickly to middle grade novels and other more challenging reads.

I’ve been very happy to see Thomas lately revisiting the picture books that line our shelves, even when he’s capable of reading the children’s novels placed alongside. When his dad took him to a used book store recently, Thomas chose a picture book to bring home. Likewise, when my husband Josh took him along on an outing to Barnes and Noble, Thomas came home with the whimsical Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble (Skippyjon Jones).

I’m glad third-grader Thomas feels just as comfortable hanging out with Skippyjon as Harry Potter. Even if the Skippyjon Jones picture book series is supposedly aimed at “ages four-eight”.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

visit magicbookshelfonline.com

Advertisements
 

Publishing revenues post-Harry Potter vanish September 26, 2008

Harry Potter fans are undoubtedly feeling a void since for the first time in years, there’s no new Harry installment to look forward to.

Meanwhile, American publisher Scholastic Corp. is apparently feeling the void in a perhaps less emotional but no less painful way.

According to a Forbes report yesterday, the children’s book publisher reported a loss of $49.1 million, or $1.30 per share, compared with a loss of $2.8 million, or 7 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

“Scholastic Corp. said Thursday its fiscal first-quarter loss widened compared with a year-ago period that benefited from a new Harry Potter book,” writes Associated Press writer Michelle Chapman.

The final book in J.K. Rowling’s blockbuster series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7), reportedly generated $240 million in revenue that quarter.

Chapman writes that Scholastic President and Chief Executive Richard Robinson promises there’s fiscal life after Harry, citing new book franchises “The 39 Clues”, starting with The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1), and new Young Adult title The Hunger Games as performing well.

Fortunately, Hollywood is actually helping out us clingers-on with at least some new movie versions to anticipate, so maybe it’s not so bad they decided to postpone Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince until next summer.

And J.K. Rowling can’t seem to quite let go either, fortunately, with her spin-off The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Standard Edition.

Those whose little fans can’t say goodbye to Harry even after reading the entire series several times over also shouldn’t forget ancillary tomes like the Harry Potter Schoolbooks Box Set: From the Library of Hogwarts: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Quidditch Through The Ages. This collection, which at least gives more dimension to the world of Harry and friends, was released some years back but may have gotten lost in the shuffle of the new series installments that were coming out.

Meanwhile, Scholastic may never equal much less top the magical fiscal benefits Harry brought, but I hope they’re at least appreciative of the amazing coup of having been his creator’s stateside publisher.

posted by Janie McQueen, author of The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

Visit magicbookshelfonline.com