Delegating specific ages to certain books may not be the best practice

Do You Have to Be a Certain Age to Read Certain Books?

Our Editorial Manager, Gaby, has a memory of 1st grade: She was put in the ‘slow’ reading level with six other kids. It wasn’t so bad- she admits; “I was, and still am a slow reader. But I understood more ‘difficult’ concepts despite my reading speed.” Because of her reading speed, she was made to read easier books while the students with ‘faster’ reading speeds read books for kids 9 and up.


This is a problem for obvious reasons, one of which is how do we actually gauge the right ‘level’ of a book? When you mark something as a young adult, middle grade, or young children’s book, it ends up isolating that book. Certain readers at different ages won’t read it because the book is deemed above or below their reading level. 


On that note, sometimes you read a book, either at school or on your own, and can’t get into it. When I was in school, we read Pride and Prejudice and I couldn’t do it! It seemed that everyone else understood what was going on — except for me. There have been a ton of books that I’ve put down just because I couldn’t get into them. I often couldn’t tell the difference between my dislike of the book and my inability to understand it. 


I wonder if I just wasn’t mature enough to read certain books? 



From Ethan Frome to Pride and Prejudice, there have been numerous titles that I’ve had to read that I didn’t want to continue reading. Looking back, I was around 17 when I had to read these and now, I’m wondering if I read them again, would I understand them more? It’s hard to tell. I remember disliking both of those books not just because I couldn’t understand the entirety of what was happening, but because to me, they weren’t interesting. I’d seen the Pride and Prejudice film adaptation with Keira Knightley and loved it, but could not get through Austen’s novel.


Thinking back, I don’t really think it was my age that hindered me from enjoying the book. I think it was a combination of things. I don’t believe that you necessarily have to be a certain age to enjoy certain books. Gaby thinks that her first-grade experience, when teachers and librarians didn’t let her read ‘complex’ stories, had a huge negative effect on her. Besides thinking she was a slow reader, she felt dumb. But that isn’t the case- you often don’t understand a book because you just don’t like or care about the concepts. Yes, age plays a factor, but you could read Ethan Frome at age 70 and if you don’t like the book, you might not pay too close attention to it, and then you won’t really understand it!


I think you have to have an open mind and a developed vocabulary for sure, but not necessarily be “mature” or not. Around the time I was supposed to read Ethan Frome and Pride and Prejudice, I had read Wuthering Heights twice. Sometimes I look back at Wuthering Heights and wonder how I even got through it! It’s a difficult read and even at my age now, I can’t imagine reading that book again, even though I loved it. 


So, I don’t believe that you have to be a certain age to understand or enjoy a certain book. I think you have to be in the right frame of mind, you have to be determined, and want to read it, otherwise, it won’t get done! 


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