Regarding Age Range Assignment:

1. For the purpose of this list we have set the age range of each book to cover the ages during which a child can benefit and enjoy a book – and not at what age it will align with their reading level.  This means that our books have been listed for a wider range of ages than you might expect perhaps.

We have set the age range during which we believe that a book has something to offer to a child. However, children will need to approach the book differently according to their age. The youngest age listed is where you can read the book to a child and they will understand it and enjoy it; the top age in the range is where a child can read the book on their own and still enjoy it.  Children are capable of understanding and profiting from books that are well above their own reading level if someone reads aloud to them (or if they hear it as an audiobook). If fact, hearing more difficult books is great for challenging children to develop their understanding and vocabulary.  

The age ranges assigned to each book therefore refer to the appropriateness of the themes of each book as well as to the difficulty of the text. Some books are able to be read by younger readers but the children will not benefit from reading them. This is true if the themes discussed are not relevant and comprehensible to their age group, or even if they are not appropriate at their stage of development. To give you an example, we hold Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment to be an excellent book. Nevertheless we do not agree that it is appropriate reading for any mature and able ten year old. This is because its themes are not relevant to her and she has nothing to gain from reading it, even if it is a classic.

At the same time, many books are too ‘difficult to read’ for children but they would derive much benefit from them if someone read the books aloud to them. It is often easier to comprehend something that you hear rather than what you read. This is often the case with older books that use more archaic language. The works of George MacDonald come to mind. Particularly his books about the Curdie and the princess are excellent books for younger children. The content is perfect for a child of seven, but today's seven year olds would not by and large be capable of reading such old language themselves. They would get tired by it. If you read the books aloud to them however, they understand them and enjoy them perfectly well.

We have set the age range to try to indicate this ‘appropriateness’ of each book.

2. You will notice that we have assigned some books as being for eighteen year olds and others as twenty plus. The reason for this is that in a real sense eighteen year olds are still children. Certainly their ability to comprehend text is mature, yet we class them as children for another reason. The reason is this: Young people, like children, are more 'impressionable' than adults are. They are still deeply involved in learning about the world with an intensity that adults abandon. They are forever looking at the world so as to learn about it, about themselves, and about their place in the world. They internalise everything that they learn; they use their understanding of their world to form themselves. Eighteen year olds, like chldren, are still being continually formed.

For this reason we believe that 'children' should use their time to learn about what is best in the world. Education is about bringing the best to our children so that we can thus bring out the best in them. Childhood is the time to be inspired. Children and young people need (and deeply desire) heroes.

Children are not capable, as adults are, to 'stand at a distance' from their experiences. (Needless to say reading books is a deep experience). They cannot 'cope objectively' with facts and not be influenced by them. Children and young people are malleable. Their experiences become a part of them. As adults we have responsibility for the education of children and young people and we should give them what is full of human greatness. Their education is their formation. There are many adult books that we think are perfectly worthwhile that are not appropriate for young people.

It is not clear at what age a 'child' becomes a fully formed 'adult' capable of objectifying the world. We have set the turning point at twenty.

3. Finally, let us end by saying that good children's books are ageless. There is no real upper limit for them. We have indicated such books by setting their maximum age at one hundred. For this reason you will find several books addressing themselves to younger readers in the lists for older teenagers. Some teenagers will value these, and others will consider themselves too old for such 'easily readable texts'. Some young people will need to grow even older before they can appreciate these books again. We leave it to your discretion to pick books at the level your child will appreciate.