Who should decide whether a book is age appropriate for your child? Is it you? Is it her teacher? How about the librarian? What about the entire education system? Or, perhaps the publisher? In a move that is sure to gain controversy, publishers are attempting to put age-appropriate information on the covers of their books.
The guidelines would be much those of the movies, which determine what may or may not be appropriate for someone of a given age. Authors among others are vehemently against such guidelines. Among them is none other than J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books (the movies of which naturally are advertised with such guidelines). Also among them is Philip Pullman, the author of the His Dark Materials books on which the movie the Golden Compass was based.
Pullman perhaps put it best when he said that by adding age limits it would exclude a group of readers and that he doesn't want to do that. I would imagine the last thing an author would want is to have fewer readers of his books! Look, I read Clan of the Cave Bear when perhaps I was a little too young to fully understand it--but I turned out all right. I think books are different than movies, somehow, but I can't put my finger on it. I don't know how I feel about age guidelines for movies--those don't mean anything anymore as the studios use them to get more viewers--but I can't say I champion the idea of putting restrictions on books. Henry Miller will spin in his grave!