As a lover and reviewer of children’s fiction, specifically the Young Adult (or New Adult as it now likes to be called) genre, I have quite strong feelings about this topic. In short, the answer for me is NO!
When I read this question ‘Should children's books have age certifications or ratings?’ it makes me think of film classifications where no one under a particular age can see that particular film. The first thing that springs to mind is how on earth would most children be able to prove how old they are? Unless children have a passport, there is no way of being able to show this. Also, at what age do children stop being children? Are teenagers still classed as children and would books aimed at teenagers have classifications too.
Going back to films, many of these are now adapted from books. The Harry Potter series of films have different classifications as the series goes on. Would the same kind of thing happen for a series of books? Would it be ok for a 7 or 8 year old to read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone only then to have to wait until they were 11 or 12 to finish the series? Film classifications are based on a particular set of rules but how would this be decided for books? Children’s books very rarely have any swearing in them, young adult books do introduce the themes of relationships and sex amongst other things but where would the line be drawn? The young adult genre especially covers quite a wide age range and I don’t think this could be divided up in a fair way if the books were to be given age classifications.
I don’t have children myself so I am unable to comment on how I would react to this question if that was the case. However, when I was a child, I was always well above the average reading age and I always read things a couple of years higher up than what was recommended in school. I also think maturity is a big issue when it comes to book. All children mature (I know this makes them sound like cheese or wine!) differently so what they will want to read will alter from child to child. Twilight was regarded as a young adult book and I know my cousin read the first one when she was 12. She reads books aimed quite a few years above her age so if classifications were brought in, I feel as though she would suffer because of this.
Generally, I think that for younger children, their parents have a large say in what books they are buying as they will be the people they are shopping with. Because of this, parents will already be able to read the back of a book and determine whether or not they think it is suitable for their own child. Again, this all boils down to individuality. One child is completely different to the next so what might be appropriate for one person may not be for another. In the young adult genre, I have seen plenty of books with warnings on that they are not aimed at younger readers. I think this is plenty of warning enough to show what the book may contain without people being banned from buying certain books.
I feel that if classifications were to be put on children’s books, there might as well be a list of what is ok for each age to read. Although not done to the fullest extent, books would essentially be being banned for particular age ranges and I think that this would be an insane idea! I can’t imagine someone telling me I couldn’t buy a book just because I was, for example, one year too young.