At my library, they have a younger child and teen zone, but surprisingly, books are categorised by author. Some children do know which authors they like but most would be helped by their parents who would themselves be guided by titles within an appropriate age group.
At the bookshop, they marketed books for different age groups with the following shelf areas clearly labelled:
1) Learn to read 5-8 year
2) Fiction 5-8
3) Fiction 9-12
4) Teen fiction
In the younger age groups, there were a variety of reading level series that progressed the child from beginner to fluent reader.
The beginner titles were factual, with simple language and 5-10 word sentences. Photos supported the text and there were no chapters.
The fluent reader books were factual but introduced headings and more text. The language is more involved often asking the reader questions, and there are colour drawings to support the large font size.
In the “Fiction 5-8” section, serialised fiction is popular. Adam Blade’s fantasy series “Beast Quest” dominates, with over 72 titles split into 12 series comprising of 6 titles. Each book includes trump cards and stickers, a clever way of encouraging children to read them all.
“Rainbow Magic” by Daisy Meadows is another series with many titles, which when set out in chronological order create a picture on the spine – another way of enticing the reader to the next book; to reveal the overall image.
In the next age range, “Fiction 9-12” category, the storylines become more varied. The language at this level is more challenging, the font size reduces considerably and only the occasional illustration features. Chapters are now present, quite often more than 10 per book.
Targetting specific audiences requires specific techniques that aid appropriateness and reader engagement.
Younger readers (5-7 year olds) need short paragraphs and short sentences. Words should be short (8-10 characters) length with little use of colloquialism or exclamations. The third person is often the viewpoint.
The 9-10 year olds tolerate extended paragraphs, lengthened sentences and words of 10 characters in length. Colloquialism and exclamations should be avoided. Basic conversation can be introduced and the viewpoint can move between third and first person.
The 12+ age group sees paragraphs varying between 4-12 lines, sentences lengthen to 16-18 words which are 12+ characters long. Colloquialism, exclamations and dialogue are used, with first person viewpoint favoured as much as third person.
Assigning age categories to extracts was difficult and I found it surprising that children’s books explore such wide subject matters.
When re-writing an extract or the younger children, I used short words and sentences. Imagery was immediate and obvious. For the older group I was more expansive, used more detail and longer words/sentences.
I write for 12+ year olds because I find it more creatively free; this is my preferred age group.
Target age groups on book covers are a mixed blessing. They clarify the audience, guiding parents to suitability but it can put children off if a title is aimed at a younger age group; they might feel it “babish”. This could lead to peer ridiculing.
I wouldn’t include overt sexualisation in the 12+ age group but would include emotions and feelings because this age category will be pre-pubescent. Most subject areas can be covered but in an appropriate way.
Reading has been varied; Anne Fine’s “Ivan the Terrible”, “Blood Ties” by Sophie McKenzie, “Skulduggary Pleasant” by Derek Landy, and “A Mouse Called Wolf” by Dick King Smith. I am currently reading the second “Artemis Fowl” title and I hope to study Eoin Colfer’s series for my creative commentary.