The short answer to that question would be, “I dunno. About seven to nine years old?”
The long answer would be, well, long. And? No surprise to those who know me, it requires a backstory.
I am the mother of six children, three of whom are ours through biology and three of whom are ours through adoption. The whole nature vs. nurture debate could be a post all on its own, but based on my experience? Both. It’s both. Whether we are talking about character development, learning abilities, or personality traits, the whole person is influenced by both nature and nurture, and when some trauma gets thrown in there the balance between the two becomes woefully unequal.
So when we are talking about reading levels in terms of age, that can become a really tricky thing. My own kids have fallen on various ends of the “reading level” spectrum, from reading by the age of three and moving on to novels by the age of five with excellent fluency, comprehension, and freaky speed, to reading fluently at the middle school level but still having difficulties with comprehension and having to read slowly in order to understand the basics. Therefore, based on my experiences as a mother, a homeschooling parent, and a formerly certified secondary education English teacher (so, grades 7-12 at the time), I find it difficult to assign my Hector books one of the typical age-related reading levels.
Hector the Inspector is (planned to be) a series of picture books with what some might consider a lot of words (for picture books). Some of them are “big” words. After finishing my first drafts of the first two books, I asked my then-high-school-sophomore daughter and then-college-senior daughter to read them and tell me what they thought. “Those are some big words for little kids,” they thought.
“Some of my peers wouldn’t understand some of those words,” my high-school daughter said.
Totally dismayed that she thought some high schoolers might not understand some of the vocabulary in Hector, I asked her to underline the offending words. With some of them, I understood why they might be too much for little kids, and, I think, I changed them. With others, I understood that they would maybe be newish words for little kids, but I didn’t change them. With the rest of her underlined suggestions? I practically wept at the idea that high schoolers might not understand those words and, therefore, was convinced they belonged in my books if for no other reason than to, hopefully, save at least some future high school students from such lexiconic deprivation (I do not use the words “lexiconic deprivation” in Hector).
In the first two books, I provide an explanation of a more serious nature in the front and another of a more humorous nature in the back as to why I chose to include what some might consider challenging vocabulary. I’m still not convinced it’s all that challenging, but I am convinced that they are words worth learning, regardless. Consequently, each book also contains a glossary in the back.
Hector, himself, is about eight years old. I tend to think of him as somewhere between seven and nine years of age, but, seeing as eight is smack dab between seven and nine, it’s probably safest to say he is eight. This is a big reason why my simple answer for the target age question is “About seven to nine years old?”
You might have a five-year-old, however, who finds the books little more than quaint or an eleven-year-old who finds the need to keep checking the glossary frustrating (I recommend reading the glossary before reading the story if you think the vocabulary might be challenging for your child).
Hopefully within a few days, I will have my proof copy of the first book. Once I do, I will do a video reading of the book over on my Facebook page, which should help you decide if Hector is too young, too old, or just right for a child in your life.