Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Continuing the discussion on books for children
Easy readers (easy-to-read) books are for children just starting to read on their own (ages 6-8). They have many
illustrations in colour, but the format is often a smaller book size than the ‘baby’ books.

Transition books - sometimes called "early chapter books" for ages 6-9. These are longer, about 30 pages, and broken into 2-3 page chapters. Books are smaller and now have black-and-white illustrations not necessarily on every page.

Chapter books for ages 7-10. Stories usually contain a lot of action. Readers love adventure stories.

Middle grade books (novels) This is the golden age of reading for many children, ages 8-12. Stories are longer and have more complex plots and sub-plots involving several characters. Readers love series books where they can follow the adventures of favourite characters, e.g. the perennially popular Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books. Illustrations in fiction books are now few and far between and are black and white.

Young adult books These are for ages 12 – 16. Books can  go up to 200 pages, plots can be complex with several major characters, though one character should emerge as the focus of the book. Themes should be relevant to the problems and struggles of today's teenagers.

The age divisions overlap and are merely guidelines as many children will be comfortable reading either behind or ahead of their age group. The important thing is for parents or adults buying books for children to be aware of the child’s interests and reading level. Often adults will buy books which appeal to them (from their memories of their own childhood) or books which they think the child should read, and then they wonder why the child is not excited about the book they have bought. Children get enough of the books they should read in school, buy a book which will be pure fun for the child to read– fiction or non-fiction.
In the Caribbean  you will find publishers more willing to publish books for the age ranges mentioned above, especially for the middle grade readers. Although stories are longer, the absence of colour illustrations, except perhaps for the cover, makes it cheaper to produce. There will be more sales  - to libraries and if the books get recommended for supplementary readers in schools.

 There is a general feeling that fiction both for adults and children doesn’t sell well in the Caribbean. Some days ago, I was watching a  television interview with a  local publisher who said,  emphatically, that fiction doesn’t sell in the Caribbean  in any numbers to make it viable for a publisher to invest in same. Later, Collin Channer of Calabash fame was on the program disputing this. His point was that the problem was in the lack of adequate marketing and promotion for the books. When last, he asked, have you seen a Caribbean book title (fiction) advertised on television, heard it on radio, seen it on a poster or in the print media? Food for thought.
A mini launch supported by a few committed souls, a newspaper review (if you are lucky) – that’s usually it for promotions, so the general public remains largely unaware of the book. Also, in Jamaica, at least, we seem to have developed a culture that the children should get books. Publishers know they are taking a risk  putting out fiction for children. More on this another time.
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