Lately, I've seen several discussions of proposals to put age ranges on books. I have trouble grasping how this would work because of my own experience with reading progression.
I remember when I was in my first year of school, we were divided into three groups for reading, according to level. Each group was allowed to choose their own name, and ours, the advanced group, chose the politically incorrect name "the Indians", in response to the middle group's choice of "the Cowboys." (OMG, I think the third group was "the Horses"! LOL!) We weren't, however, allowed to choose our own books, and they were, I recall, stultifying variations on "See Dick Run." The only difference between the groups was that ours was allowed to progress through each volume faster than the other groups, and so, we got through more of them.
Naturally, I never learned a dang thing in school. In fact, I don't recall learning anything in school at all until I was about 15 years old. Pretty sad. That's not to say I didn't learn things; I just didn't learn them in school. I spent most of my time in school staring at the wall, at the clock, or at the notebook on my desk. My dad taught me maths; books taught me everything else. I was good enough at words that when called upon, I could BS the teachers so they didn't know that I never paid a bit of attention to a word they said.
The thing about age ranges on books is that I hated school so much, I don't know how I would have got through my childhood if I'd not had books to look forward to! Every day when the bell rang, I raced home to my dogs, and my books. No matter what kind of plans I had with my friends, and I nearly always had some kind of fun there too, I always had an hour or two in the afternoon, after school, with my books. The good ones that taught me things. The ones that gave my life some color!
When I was six and seven, I was into Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and Cherry Ames. They were far more interesting than the silly Dick and Jane things we had at school. Then, I moved into LOVE with Harlequin romances! No sex, but I doubt very seriously that mild romance novels would have been rated at an age range for an eight year old! Or Georgette Heyer and her magical Regencies -- I was fascinated with the Ton.
By the time I was nine, I was ready for the big leagues -- my dad's Book of the Month Club books. So I moved into reading the featured NYT bestseller of the month. Whatever it was. I learned a LOT that way.
I asked my parents and grandparents a lot of uncomfortable questions about the words and meanings in the books. And they gulped and explained them to me. I'm sure it wasn't easy for them, but it meant we talked about books. Almost every day. I'm sure it was hard for them, but I'm still grateful. And as hard as it must have been, it did give them useful ways to talk to me about things well in advance of me coming upon threatening situations in real life. For example, our discussion of Valley of the Dolls happened long before anyone offered me drugs in school -- but that cautionary tale was already lodged in my memory as a reason to stay far away from them.
The idea of intentionally making children dumber is just alien to me I suppose. But there will always be some who want to do that. In the end, it probably doesn't matter, because those people wouldn't have read and discussed the books with their children anyway. But it makes me sad to think there are people who want their children's lives to have fewer colors.